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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



GIFT 



THE IRON PIRATE 



UNIFORM WITH THIS WORK. 
KRONSTADT. By Max Pemberton. 



Other Works by tlie same Author. 
RED MORN. 
THE GIANT'S GATK. 
THE GARDEN OF SWORDS. 
A PuRifAN's WIFE. 
THE SEA WOLVES. 
THE IMPREGNABLE CITY. 
THE LITTLE HUGUENOT. 
CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED. 



j ..-.. 

'' 




THE IRON PIRATE (A 



THE . . . 
IRON PIRATE 



A PLAIN TALE OF STRANGE 
HAPPENINGS ON THE SEA 



MAX PEMBERTON 



CASSELL AND COMPANY, LIMITED 
LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK & MELBOURNE 
MCMV. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



First Edition 1893. 
Reprinted 1894, March and July 1895, 1896. 1898, 1900, 1902, 1905. 

Popular Edition July 1899. 
Reprinted August, September and October 1899, Febi-uary and July 1900, 

1901, 1902, 1903, 1904. 
Pocket Edition August, 1905. 



PR 

G03I 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER PAGE 

L The Perfect Fool asks a Favour ... 1 

II. I Meet Captain Black 13 

m. " Four-Eyes " delivers a Message . . . 31 

IV. A Strange Sight on the Sea .... 43 

V. The Writing of Martin Hall .... 59 

VI. I Engage a Second Mate 92 

VII. The Beginning of the Great Pursuit . , 101 

VHI. I Dream of Paolo 114 

IX. I Fall in with the Nameless Ship ... 123 

X. The Spread of the Terror .... 140 

XI. The Ship in the Black Cloak . . .153 

XH. The Drinking Hole in the Boweiy . , 166 

Xm. Astern of the "Labrador" . . 180 

XIV. A Cabin in Scarlet ...... 193 

XV. The Prison of Steel .*... 198 
XVI. Northward Ho! . . . 205 



939436 



IJN I bW J 5. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

XVH. One Shall Live 218 

XVIII. The Den of Death . .... 228 

XIX. The Murders In the Cove . . .239 

XX. I Quit Ice-Haven 262 

XXI. To the Land of Man 274 

XXH. The Robbery of the "Bellonic" . . 285 

XXIII. I Go to London ...... 298 

XXIV. The Shadow on the Sea .... 308 

XXV. The Dumb Man Speaks .... 329 

XXVI. A Page in Black's Life .... 345 
XXVII. I Fall to Wondering 37J 



THE IRON PIRATE. 

A Plain Tale of Strange Happenings on the Sea. 
CHAPTER I. 

THE PERFECT FOOL ASKS A FAVOUR. 

" EN voiture ! en voiture ! " 

If it has not been your privilege to hear a 
French guard utter these words, you have lost a 
lesson in the dignity of elocution which nothing 
can replace. u En voiture, en voiture ; five minutes 
for Paris." At the well-delivered warning, the 
Englishman in the adjoining buffet raises on high 
the frothing tankard, and vaunts before the world 
his capacity for deep draughts and long ; the fair 
American spills her coffee and looks an exclamation ; 
the Bishop pays for his daughter's tea, drops the 
change in the one chink which the buffet boards 
disclose, and thinks one ; the travelled person, dis- 
daining haste, smiles on all with a pitying leer ; the 
foolish man, who has forgotten something, makes 
public his conviction that he will lose his train. 
The adamantine official alone is at his ease, and, 
as the minutes go, the knell of the train-loser 



2 THE IRON PIRATE. 

sounds the deeper, the horrid jargon is yet more 
irritating. 

I thought all these things, and more, as I waited 
for the Perfect Fool at the door of my carriage in 
the harbour station at Calais. He was truly an im- 
possible man, that small-eyed, short-haired, stooping 
mystery I had met at Cowes a month before, and 
formed so strange a friendship with. To-day he 
would do this, to-morrow he would not ; to-day he 
had a theory that the world was egg-shaped, to- 
morrow he believed it to be round ; in one moment 
he was hot upon a journey to St. Petersburg, in the 
next he felt that the Pacific Islands offered a better 
opportunity. If he had a second coat, no man had 
ever seen it ; if he had a purpose in life, no man, I 
hold, had ever known it. And yet there was a 
fascination about him you could not resist ; in his 
visible, palpitating, stultifying folly there was some- 
thing so amazing that you drew to the man as to 
that unknown something which the world had not 
yet given to you, as a treasure to be worn daily in 
the privacy of your own enjoyment. I had, as I 
have said, picked the Perfect Fool up at Cowes, 
whither I had taken my yacht, Celsis, for the 
Regatta Week ; and he had clung to me ever since 
with a dogged obstinacy that was a triumph. He 
had taken of my bread and eaten of my salt un- 
asked ; he was not a man such as the men I knew 
he was interested in nothing, not even in himself 
and yet I tolerated him. And in return for this 



THE IRON PIRATE. 3 

toleration he was about to make me lose a train for 
Paris. 

" WILL YOU COME ON ? " I roared for the tenth 
time, as the cracked bell jangled and the guards 
hoisted the last stout person into the only carriage 
where there was not a seat for her. " Don't you 
see we shall be left behind ? Hurry up ! Hang 
your parcels ! Now then for the last time, Hall, 
Hill, Hull, whatever your confounded name is, are 
you coming ? " 

Many guards gave a hand to the hoist, and the 
Perfect Fool fell upon his hat-box, which was all the 
personal property he seemed to possess. He apolo- 
gised to Mary, who sat in the far corner, with more 
grace than I had looked for from him, woke 
Roderick, who was in his fifth sleep since luncheon, 
and then gathered the remnants of himself into a 
coherent whole. 

" Did anyone use my name ? '' he asked gravely, 
and as one offended. u I thought I heard someone 
call me Hull ? " 

" Exactly ; I think I called you every name in 
the Directory, but I'm glad you answer to one of 
them.'' 

" Yes, and I tell you what," said Roderick, " I 
wish you wouldn't come into a railway carriage on 
your hands and knees, waking a fellow up every 
time he tries to get a minute to himself; I don't 
speak for myself, but for my sister.'' 

The Perfect Fool made a profound bow to Mary, 



4 THE IRON PIRATE. 

who looked very pretty in her dainty yachting dress 
she was only sixteen, I had known her all her life 
and he said, u I cannot make your sister an 
apology worthy of her." 

" If that isn't a shame, Mr. Hall," replied the 
blushing girl. " I never go to sleep in railway 
carriages." 

" No, of course you don't," said Roderick, as he 
made himself comfortable for another nap, u but 
you may go to sleep in a railway carriage ; " then 
with a grunt, " Wake me up at Amiens, old man," 
he sank to slumber. 

The train moved slowly over the sandy marsh 
which lies between Calais and Boulogne, and the 
vapid talk of the railway carriage held us to Amiens, 
and after. During the ' second half of the long 
journey Roderick was asleep, and Mary's pretty 
head had fallen against the cushion as the 
swing of the carriage gave the direct negative to 
her words at Calais station. At last, even the 
maker of commonplaces was silent ; and as I re- 
clined at greater length on the cushions of the stuffy 
compartment, I thought how strange a company 
we were then being carried over the dull, drear 
pasture-land of France, to the lights, the music, and 
the life of the great capital. Of the man Martin 
Hall I remembered his true name in the moments 
of repose I knew nothing beyond that which I have 
told you ; but of my friends Roderick and Alary, 
accompanying me on this wildaway journey, I knew 



THE IRON PIRATE. 5 

all that was to be known. Roderick and I had been 
at Caius College, Cambridge, together, friends drawn 
the closer in affection because our conditions in kith 
and kin, in possession and in purpose, in ambition 
and in idleness, were so very like. Roderick was 
an orphan twenty-four years of age, young, rich, 
desiring to know life before he measured strength 
with her, caring for no man, not vital enough to 
ivalu-e danger, an Englishman in tenacity of will, a 
good fellow, a gentleman. His sister was his only 
care. He gave to her the strength of an undivided 
love, and just as, in the shallowness of much of his 
life, there was matter for blame, so in this increas- 
ing affection and thought for the one very dear to 
him was there the strength of a strong manhood 
and a noble work. 

For myself, I was twenty-five when the strange 
things of which 1 am about to write happened to 
me. Like Roderick, I was an orphan. My father 
had left me ^50,000, which I drew upon when I 
was of age ; but, shame that I should write it, I had 
spent more than ^40,000 in four years, and my 
schooner, the Celsis, with some few thousand 
pounds, alone remained to me. Of what was my 
future to be, I knew not. In the senseless purpose 
of my life, I said only, " It will come, the tide in my 
affairs which taken at the flood should lead on to 
fortune.' 1 And in this supreme folly I lived the 
days, now in the Mediterranean, now cruising round 
the coast of England, now flying of a sudden to 



6 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Paris with one they might have called a vulgarian, 
but one I chose to know. A journey fraught with 
folly, the child of folly, to end in folly, so might it 
have been said ; but who can foretell the supreme 
moments of our lives, when unknowingly we stand 
on the threshold of action ? And who should ex- 
pect me to foresee that the man who was to touch 
the spring of my life's action sat before me mocked 
of me, dubbed the Perfect Fool over whose dead 
body 1 was to tread the paths of danger and the in- 
tricate ways of strange adventure ? 

But I would not weary you with more of these 
facts than are absolutely necessary for the under- 
standing of this story, surpassing strange, which I 
judge it to be as much my duty as my privilege to 
write. Let us go back to the Gare du Nord, and 
the compartment wherein Mary and Roderick slept, 
while the Perfect Fool and I faced each other, sur- 
feited with meteorological observations, sick to 
weariness with reflections upon the probability of 
being late or arriving before time. I would well 
have been silent and dozed as the others were 
doing ; of a truth, I had done so had it not become 
very evident that the man who had begun to bore 
me wished at last to say something, relating neither 
to the weather nor to the speed of our train. His 
restless manner, the fidgeting of his hands with 
certain papers which he had taken from his great- 
coat pocket, the shifting of the small grey eyes, 
marked that within him which suffered not show 



THE IRON PIRATE 7 

except in privacy ; and I waited for him, making 
pretence of interest in the great plain of hedgeless 
pasture-land which bordered the track on each side. 
At last he spoke, and, speaking, seemed to be the 
Perfect Fool no longer. 

" They're both asleep, aren't they ? " he asked 
suddenly, as he put his hand, which seemed to 
tremble, upon my arm, and pointed to the sleepers. 
" Would you mind making sure quite sure before 
I speak ? that is, if you will let me, for I have a 
favour to ask." 

To see the man grave and evidently concerned 
was to me so unusual that for a moment I looked 
at him rather than at Roderick or Mary, and waited 
to know if the gravity were not of his humour and 
not of any deeper import. A single glance at him 
convinced me for the second time that I did him 
wrong. He was looking at me with a fitful plead- 
ing look unlike anything he had shown previously. 
In answer to his request I assured him at once that 
he might speak his mind ; that, even if Roderick 
should overhear us, I would pledge my word for his 
good faith. Then only did he unbosom himself and 
tell me freely what he had to say. 

li I wanted to speak to you some days ago," he 
said earnestly and quickly, as his hands continued 
to play with the paper, " but we have been so much 
occupied that I have never found the occasion. It 
must seem curious in your eyes that I, who am 
quite a stranger to you, should have been in your 



8 THE IRON PIRATE. 

company for some weeks, and should not have told 
you more than my name. As the thing stands, 
you have been kind enough to make no inquiries ; 
if I am an impostor, you do not care to know it ; if 
I am a rascal hunted by the law, you have not been 
willing to help the law ; you do not know if I have 
money or no money, a home or no home, people 
or no people, yet you have made me shall I say, 
a friend ? " 

He asked the question with such a gentle in- 
flexion of the voice that I felt a softer chord was 
touched, and in response I shook hands with him. 
After that he continued to speak. 

" I am very grateful for all your trust, believe 
me, for I am a man that has known few friends in 
life, and I have not cared to go out of my way to 
seek them. You have given me your friendship 
unasked, and it is the more prized. What I wanted 
to say is this, if I should die before three days have 
passed, will you open this packet of papers I have 
prepared and sealed for you, and carry out what is 
written there as well as you are able ? It is no 
idle request, I assure you ; it is one that will put 
you in the place where I now stand, with oppor- 
tunities greater than I dare to think of. As for the 
dangers, they are big enough, but you are the man 
to overcome them as I hope to overcome them if 
I live ! " 

The sun fell over the lifeless scene without as he 
ceased to speak. I could see a crimson beam glow- 



THE IRON PIRATE. q 

ing upon a crucifix that stood on the wayside by 
the hill-foot yonder ; but the cheerless monotony oi 
plough land and of pasture, stretching away leafless, 
treeless, without bud or flower, herd or herdsman, 
church or cottage, to the shadowed horizon, loom- 
ing dark as the twilight deepened, was in sym- 
pathy with the gloom which had come upon me 
as Martin Hall ceased to speak. I had thought 
the man a fool and witless, flighty in purpose and 
shallow in thought, and yet he seemed to speak 
of great mysteries and of death. In one moment 
the jester's cloak fell from him, and I saw the mail 
beneath. He had made a great impression upon 
me, but I concealed it from him, and replied 
jauntily and with no show of gravity 

" Tell me, are you quite certain that you are not 
talking nonsense ? " 

He replied by asking me to take his hand. 
I took it it was chill with the icy cold as of 
death ; and I doubted his meaning no more, but 
determined to have the whole mystery, then so 
faintly sketched, laid bare before me. 

"If you are not playing the fool, Hall," 
said I, " and if you are sincere in wishing me to 
do something which you say is a favour to you, 
you must be more explicit. In the first place, 
how did you get this absurd notion that you are 
going to die into your head ? Secondly, what is 
the nature of the obligation you wish to put 
upon me ? It is quite clear that I can't accept a 



io THE IRON PIRATE. 

trust about which I know nothing, and I think 
that for undiluted vagueness your words deserve 
a medal. Let us begin at the beginning, which 
is a very good place to begin at. Now, why 
should you, who are going to Paris, as far as I 
know, simply as a common sightseer, have any 
reason to fear some mysterious calamity in a city 
where you don't know a soul ? " 

He laughed softly, looking out for a moment 
on the sunless fields, but his eyes flashed lights 
when he answered me, and I saw that he 
clenched his hands so that the nails pierced 
the flesh. 

" Why am I going to Paris without aim, do you 
say ? Without aim I, who have waited years 
for the work I believe that I shall accomplish to- 
night why am I going to Paris ? Ha ! I will tell 
you : I am going to Paris to meet one who, before 
another year has gone, will be wanted by every 
Government in Europe ; who, if I do not put 
my hand upon his throat in the midst of his 
foul work, will make graves as thick as pines in 
the wood there before you know another month ; 
one who is mad and who is sane, one who, if he 
knew my purpose, would crush me as I crush this 
paper ; one who has everything that life can give 
and seeks more, a man who has set his face 
against humanity, and who will make war on the 
nations, who has money and men, who can com- 
mand and be obeyed in ten cities, against whom 



THE IRON PIRATE. 11 

the police might as well hope to fight as against 
the white wall of the South Sea ; a man of pur- 
pose so deadly that the wisest in crime would 
not think of it a man, in short, who is the 
product of culminating vice him I am going to 
meet in this Paris where I go without aim 
without aim, ha ! '' 

u And you mean to run him down ? " I asked, 
as his voice sank to a hoarse whisper, and the 
drops stood as beads on his brow ; ' ; what interest 
have you in him ? " 

" At the moment none ; but in a month the in- 
terest of money. As sure as you and I talk of it 
now, there will be fifty thousand pounds offered 
for knowledge of him before December comes upon 
us!" 

I looked at him as at one who dreams dreams, 
but he did not flinch. 

" You meet the man in Paris ? " I went on. 

" To-night I shall be with him," he answered ; 
" within three days I win all or lose all : for his 
secret will be mine. If I fail, it is for you to follow 
up the thread which I have unravelled by three 
years' hard work " 

u What sort of person do you say he is ? " I 
continued, and he replied 

u You shall see for yourself. Dare you risk 
coming with me I meet him at eight o'clock ? " 

" Dare I risk ! pooh, there can't be much 
danger." 



12 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" There is every danger ! but, so, the girl is 
waking ! " 

It was true ; Mary looked up suddenly as we 
thundered past the fortifications of Paris, and said, 
as people do say in such circumstances, "Why, I 
believe I've been asleep ! " Roderick shook himself 
like 'a great bear, and asked if we had passed 
Chantilly ; the Perfect Fool began his banter, and 
roared for a cab as the lights of the station twinkled 
in the semi-darkness. I could scarce believe, as I 
watched his antics, that he was the man who had 
spoken to me of great mysteries ten minutes before. 
Still less could I convince myself that he had not 
many days to live. So are the fateful things of life 
hidden from us. 



CHAPTER II. 

I MEET CAPTAIN BLACK. 

THE lights of Paris were very bright as we drove 
down the Boulevard des Capucines, and drew up at 
length at the Hotel Scribe, which is by the Opera 
House. Mary uttered a hundred exclamations of 
joy as we passed through the city of lights ; and 
Roderick, who loved Paris, condescended to keep 
awake ! 

" I'll tell you what," he exclaimed, after a period 
of profound reflection, u the beauty of this place is 
that no one thinks here, except about cooking, and, 
after all, cooking is one of the first things worthy 
of serious speculation, isn't it ? Suppose we plan 
a nice little dinner for four ? " 

" For two, my dear fellow, if you please," said 
Hall, with mock of state he was quite the Perfect 
Fool again. " Mr. Mark Strong condescends to 
dine with me, and in that utter unselfishness of 
character peculiar to him insists on paying the 
bill don't you, Mr. Mark?" 

I answered that I did, and, be it known, I was 
the Mark Strong referred to. 

" The fact is, Roderick," I explained, u that I 
made a promise to meet one of Mr. Hall's friends 



14 THE IRON PIRATE. 

to-night, so you and Mary must dine alone. You 
can then go to sleep, don't you see, or take Mary 
out and buy her something." 

" Yes, that would be splendid, Roderick," cried 
Mary, all the girlish excitement born of Paris 
strong upon her. " Let's go and buy a hundred 
things " Roderick groaned " but I wish, Mark, 
you weren't going to leave us on our first night 
here ; you know what you said only yesterday ! " 

" What did I say yesterday ? " 

" That there were a lot of bounders in Paris 
and I want to see them bound ! '' 

I consoled her by telling her that bounders 
never made display after six o'clock, and assured 
her that Roderick had long confessed to me his 
intention to buy her the best hat in Paris, at which 
Roderick muttered exclamations for my ear only. 
By that time we were at the hotel, and the Perfect 
Fool had much to say. 

" Could any gentleman oblige me with the time, 
English or French ? " he asked ; " my watch is so 
moved at the situation in which it finds itself that 
it is fourteen hours too slow." 

I told him that it was ten minutes to eight, and 
the information quickened him. 

" Ten minutes to eight, and half-a-dozen Russian 
princes, to say nothing of an English knight, to 
meet ; so ho, my toilet must remain ! Could 
anyone oblige me with a comb, fragmentary or 
whole ? " 



THE IRON PIRATE. 15 

He continued his banter as we mounted the 
stairs of the cozy little hotel, whose windows over- 
look the core of the great throbbing heart of Paris, 
and so until we were alone in my room, whither 
he had followed me. 

" Quick's the word," he said, as he shut the 
door, and took several articles from his hat-hox, 
" and no more palaver. One pair of spectacles, one 
wig, one set of curiosities to sell do I look like a 
second-hand dealer in odd lots, or do I not, Mr. 
Mark Strong ? " 

I had never seen such an utter change in any 
man made with such little show. The Pertect Fool 
was no longer before me ; there was in his place 
a lounging, shady-looking, greed-haunted He- 
brew. The haunching of the shoulders was 
perfect ; the stoop, the walk, were triumphs. 
But he gave me little opportunity to inspect him 
or to ask for what reason he had thus disguised 
himself. 

" It's five minutes from here," he said, " and 
the clocks are going eight you are right as you 
are, for you are a cipher in the affair yet, and don't 
run the danger I run now come ! " 

He passed down the stairs with this blunt in- 
vitation, and I followed him. So good was his 
disguise and make-pretence that the others, who 
were in the narrow hall, drew back, to let him go, 
not recognising him, and spoke to me, asking what 
I had done with him. Then I pointed to the new 



1 6 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Perfect Fool, and without another word of explana- 
tion went on into the street. 

We walked in silence for some little distance, 
keeping by the Opera, and so through to the broad 
Boulevard Haussmann. Thence he turned, crossing 
the busy thoroughfare, and passing through the 
Rue Joubert, stopped quite suddenly at last in the 
mouth of a cul-de-sac which opened from the 
narrow street. He had something to say to me, 
and he gave it with quick words prompted by a 
quick and serious wit, for he had put off the role 
of the jester at the hotel. 

" This is the place," he said ; " up here on the 
third, and there isn't much time for talk. Just 
this ; you're my man, you carry this box of 
metal " he meant the case of curiosities u and 
don't open your mouth, unless you get the fool 
in you and want the taste of a six-inch knife. 
That's my risk, and I haven't brought you here 
to share it ; so mum's the word, mum, mum, mum ; 
and keep a hold on your eyes, whatever you see 
or whatever you hear. Do I look all right ? " 

" Perfectly but just a word ; if we are going 
into some den where we may have a difficulty in 
getting out again, wouldn't it be as well to go 
armed ? " 

u Armed ! pish ! " and he looked unutterable 
contempt, treading the passage with long strides, 
and entering a house at the far end of it. 

Thither I followed him, still wondering, and 



THE IRON PIRATE. 17 

passing the concierge found myself at last on the 
third floor, before a door of thick oak. Our first 
knocking upon this had no effect, but at the second 
attempt, and while he was pulling his hat yet more 
upon his eyes, I heard a great rolling voice which 
seemed to echo on the stairway, and so leapt from 
flight to flight, almost like the rattle of a cannon- 
shot with its many reverberations. For the 
moment indistinct, I then became aware that the 
voice was that of a man singing and walking at 
the same time, and seemingly in no hurry to give 
us admission, for he passed from room to room 
bellowing this refrain, and never varying it by so 
much as a single word : 

" There was a man of Boston town, 
With his pistols three, 
With his pistols three, three, three ; 
And never a skunk in Boston town 
That he didn't chaw but me ! " 

When the noise stopped at last, there was 
silence, complete and unbroken, for at least five 
minutes, during which time Hall stood motionless, 
waiting for the door to be opened. After that we 
heard a great yell from the same voice, with the 
words, " Ahoy, Splinters, shift along the gear, will 
you ? " and then Splinters, whoever he might be, 
was cursed in unchosen phrases as the son of all 
the lubbers that ever crowded a fo'cas'le. A mum- 
bled discussion seemed to tread on the heels of the 



1 8 THE IRON PIRATE. 

hullabaloo, when, apparently having arranged the 
"gear" to satisfaction, the man stalked to the door, 
singing once more in stentorian tones : 

" There was a man of Boston town, 
With his pistols three, 
With his pistols 

" Hullo the darned little Jew and his kick- 
shaws ; why, matey, so early in the morning ? " 

The exclamation came as he saw us, putting his 
head round the door, and showing one arm swathed 
all up in dirty red flannel. He was no sort of a 
man to look at, as the Scots say, for his head was a 
mass of dirty yellow hair, and his face did not seem 
to have known an ablution for a week. But there 
was an ugly jocular look about his rabbit -like eyes 
and a great mark cut clean into the side of his face 
which were a fit decoration for the red-burnt, pitted, 
and horribly repulsive countenance he betrayed. 
His leer, too, as he greeted Hall, was the evil leer 
of a man whose laugh makes those hearing hush 
with the horror of it ; and, on my part, forgetting 
the warning, I looked at him and drew back re- 
pelled. This he saw, and with a flush and a display 
of one great stump of a tooth which protruded on 
his left lip, he turned on me. 

u And who may you be, matey, that you don't 
go for to shake hands with Roaring John ? Dip 
me in brine, if you was my son I'd dress you down 
with a two-foot bar. Why don't you teach the 



THE IRON PIRATE. 19 

little Hebrew manners, old Josfos ? but there," and 
this he said as he opened the door wider, u so long 
as our skipper will have to do with shiners to sell 
and land barnacles, what ken you look for ? walk 
right along here." 

The room indicated opened from a small hall, 
for the place was built after the Parisian fashion 
akin to that of our flats and was a house in itself. 
The man who called himself *' Roaring John " 
entered the apartment before us, bawling at the 
top of his voice, " Josfos, the Jew, and his pardner 
come aboard ! " and then I found myself in the 
strangest company and the strangest place I have 
ever set eyes on. So soon as I could see things 
clearly through the hanging atmosphere of tobacco 
smoke and heavy vapour, I made out the forms of 
six or eight men, not sitting as men usually do in 
a place where they eat, but squatting on their 
haunches by a series of low narrow tables, which 
were, on closer inspection, nothing but planks put 
upon bricks and laid round the four sides of the 
apartment. Of other furniture there did not seem 
to be a vestige in the place, save such as pertained 
to the necessities of eating and sleeping. Each man 
lolled back on his own pile of dirty pillows and 
dirtier blankets ; each had before him a great metal 
drinking-cup, a coarse knife, which I found was for 
hacking meat, long rolls of plug tobacco, and a 
small red bundle, which I doubt not was his port- 
able property. Each, too, was dressed exactly as 



20 THE IRON PIRATE. 

his fellow, in a coarse red shirt, seamen's trousers of 
ample blue serge, a belt with a clasp-knife about 
his waist, and each had some bauble of a bracelet 
on his arm, and some strange rings upon his fingers. 
In the first amazement at seeing such an assembly 
in the heart of civilised Paris, I did no more than 
glean a general impression, but that was a powerful 
one the impression that I saw men of all ages from 
twenty-five years upwards ; men marked by time 
as with long service on the sea ; men scarred, burnt, 
some with traces of great cuts and slashes received 
on the open face ; men fierce-looking as painted 
devils, with teeth, with none, with four fingers to 
the hand, with three ; men whose laugh was a 
horrid growl like the tumult of imprisoned passions, 
whose threats chilled the heart to hear, whose very 
words seemed to poison the air, who made the 
great room like a cage of beasts, ravenous and ill- 
seeking. This and more was my first thought, as 
I asked myself, into what hovel of vice have I 
fallen, by what mischance have I come on such 
a company ? 

Martin Hall seemed to have no such ill opinion 
of the men, and put himself at his ease the moment 
we entered. I had, indeed, believed for the moment 
that he had brought me there with evil intent, dis- 
trusting the man who was yet little more than a 
stranger to me ; but recalling all that passed, his 
disguise, his evident fear, I put the suspicion from 
me, and listened to him, more content, as he made 



THE IRON PIRATE. 21 

his way to the top of the room and stood before 
one who forced from me individual notice, so 
strange-looking was he, and so deep did the respect 
which all paid him appear to be. We shall meet 
this man often in our travels together, you and I, 
my friends, so a few words, if you please, about 
him. He sat at the head of the rude table, as I 
have said, but not as the others sat, on pillows and 
blankets, for there was a pile of rich-looking skins 
bear, tiger, and white wolf beneath him, and he 
alone of all the company wore black clothes and a 
white shirt. He was a short man, I judged, black- 
bearded and smooth-skinned, with a big nose, almost 
an intellectual forehead, small, white-looking hands, 
all ablaze with diamonds, about whose fine quality 
there could not be two opinions ; and, what was 
even more remarkable, there hung as a pendant to 
his watch-chain a great uncut ruby which must 
have been worth five thousand pounds. One trade- 
mark of the sea alone did he possess, in the dark, 
curly ringlets which fell to his shoulders, matted 
there as long uncombed, but typical in all of the 
man. This then was the fellow upon whose every 
word that company of ruffians appeared to hang, 
wbo obeyed him, as I observed presently, when he 
did so much as lift his hand, who seemed to have 
in their uncouth way a veneration for him, inex- 
plicable, remarkable the man of whom Martin 
Hall had painted such a fantastic picture, who was, 
as I had been told, soon to be wanted by every 



22 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Government in Europe. And so I faced him for 
the first time, little thinking that before many 
months had gone I should know of deeds by his 
hand which had set the world aflame with indig- 
nation, deeds which carried me to strange place?, 
and among dangers so terrible that I shudder when 
the record brings back their reality. 

Hall was the first to speak, and it was evident 
to me that he cloaked his own voice, putting on 
the nasal twang and the manner of an East-end 
Jew dealer. 

" I have come, Mister Black," he said, " as you 
was good enough to wish, with a few little things 
beautiful things which cost me moosh money '' 

" Ho, ho ! " sang out Captain Black, " here is a 
Jew who paid much money for a few little things ! 
Look at him, boys ! the Jew with much money ! 
Turn out his pockets, boys ! the Jew with much 
money ! Ho, ho ! Bring the Jew some drink, and 
the little Jew, by thunder ! '' 

His merriment set all the company roaring to 
his mood. For a moment their play was far from 
innocent, for one lighted a great sheet of paper and 
burnt it under the nose of my friend, while another 
pushed his dirty drinking-pot to my mouth, and 
would have forced me to drink. But I remembered 
Hall's words, and held still, giving banter for banter 
only this, I learnt to my intense surprise that the 
pot did not contain beer but champagne, and that, 
by its bouquet, of an infinitely fine quality. In 



THE IRON PIRATE. 23 

what sort of a company was I, then, where mere 
seamen wore diamond rings and drank fine cham- 
pagne from pewter pots ? 

The unpleasant and rough banter ceased on a 
word from Captain Black, who called for lights, 
which were brought rough, ready-made oil flares, 
stuck in jugs and pots and Hall gathered up his 
trinkets and proceeded to lay them out with the 
well-simulated cunning of the trader. 

" That, Mister Black," he said, putting a minia- 
ture of exquisite finish against the white fur on the 
floor, " is a portrait of the Emperor Napoleon, some- 
time in the possession of the Empress Josephine ; 
that is a gold chain he was eighteen carat once 
the property of Don Carlos ; here is the pen with 
which Francis Drake wrote his last letter to the 
Queen Elizabeth beautiful goods as ever was, and 
cost moosh money ! '' 

" To the dead with your much money," said the 
Captain with an angry gesture, as he snatched the 
trinkets from him, and eyed them to my vast 
surprise with the air of a practised connoisseur ; 
" let's handle the stuff, and don't gibber. How 
much for this ? " He held up the miniature, and 
admiration betrayed itself in his eyes. 

'' He was painted by Sir William Ross, and I 
sell him for two hundred pounds, my Captain. Not 
a penny less, or I'm a ruined man ! " 

" The Jew a ruined man ! Hark at him ! Four- 
Eyes" this to a great lanky fellow who lay asleep 



24 THE IRON PIRATE. 

in the corner '' the little Jew can't sell 'em under 
two hundred, I reckon ; oh, certainly not ; why, of 
course. Here, you, Splinters, pay him for a thick- 
skinned, thieving shark, and give him a hundred 
for the others." 

The boy Splinters, who was a black lad, seem- 
ingly about twelve years old, came up at the word, 
and took a great canvas bag from a hook on the 
wall. He counted three hundred gold pieces on 
the floor pieces of all coinages in Europe and 
America, as they appeared to be by their faces, 
and Hall, who had squatted like the others, picked 
them up. Then he asked a question, while the 
little black lad, who bore a look of suffering on his 
worn face, stood waiting the Captain's word. 

" Mister Captain, I shall have waiting for me at 
Plymouth to-morrow a relic of the great John 
Hawkins, which, as I'm alive, you shouldn't miss. 
I have heard them say that it is the very sword 
with which he cut the Spaniards' beards. Since 
you have told me that you sail to-morrow, I have 
thought, if you put me on your ship across to 
Plymouth, I could show you the goods, and you 
shall have them cheap beautiful goods, if I lose 
by them." 

Now, instead of answering this appeal as he had 
done the others, with his great guffaw and banter, 
Captain Black turned upon Hall as he made his 
request, and his face lit up with passion. I saw 
that his eyes gave one fiery look, while he clenched 



THE IRON PIRATE. 25 

his fists as though to strike the man as he sat, but 
then he restrained himself. Yet, had I been Hall, 
I would not have faced such another glance for all 
that adventure had given me. It was a look which 
meant ill all the ill that one man could mean to 
another. 

" You want to come aboard my boat, do you ? " 
drawled the Captain, as he softened his voice to a 
fine tone of sarcasm. " The dealer wants a cheap 
passage ; so ho ! what do you say, Four-Eyes ; shall 
we take the man aboard ? " 

Four-Eyes sat up deliberately, and struck him- 
self on the chest several times as though to knock 
the sleep out of him. He seemed to be a brawny, 
thick-set Irishman, gigantic in limb, and with a 
more honest countenance than his fellows. He 
wore a short pea-jacket over the dirty red shirt, and 
a great pair of carpet slippers in place of the sea- 
boots which many of the others displayed. His 
hair was light and curly, and his eyes, keen-looking 
and large, were of a grey-blue and not unkindly- 
looking. I thought him a man of some deliberation, 
for he stared at the Captain and at Hall before he 
answered the question put to him, and then he 
drank a full and satisfying draught from the 
cup before him. When he did give reply, it was 
in a rich rolling voice, a luxurious voice which 
would have given ornament to the veriest common- 
place. 

"Oi'd take him aboard, bedad," he shouted, 

B 



26 THE IRON PIRATE. 

leaning back as though he had spoken wisdom, and 
then he nodded to the Captain, and the Captain 
nodded to him. 

The understanding seemed complete. 

" We sail at midnight, tide serving," said the 
Captain, as he picked up the miniature and the 
other things ; " you can come aboard when you 
like here, boy, lock these in the chest." 

The boy put out his hand to take the things, 
but in his fear or his clumsiness, he dropped the 
miniature, and it cracked upon the floor. The 
mishap gave me. my first real opportunity of judging 
these men in the depth of their ruffianism. As the 
lad stood quivering and terror-struck, Black turned 
upon hun, almost foaming at the lips. 

" You clumsy young cub, what d'ye mean by 
that ? " he asked ; and then, as the boy fell on his 
knees to beg for mercy, casting one pitiful look 
towards me a look I shall not soon forget he 
kicked him with his foot, crying 

" Here, give him a dozen with your strap, one 
of you." 

He had but to say the words, when a colossal 
brute seized the boy in his grip, and held his head 
down to the table board, while another, no more 
gentle, stripped his shirt off, and struck him blow 
after blow with the great buckle, so that the flesh 
was torn while the blood trickled upon the floor. 
The brutal act stirred the others to a fine merriment, 
yet for myself, I had all the will to spring up and grip 



THE IRON PIRATE. 27 

the striker as he stood, but Hall, who had covered 
my hand with his, held it so surely, and with such 
prodigious strength, that my fingers almost cracked. 
It was the true sign-manual for me to say nothing, 
and I realised how hopeless such a struggle would 
be, and turned my head that I should not see the 
cruel thing to the end. 

When the lad fainted they gave him a few kicks 
with their heavy boots, and he lay like a log on the 
floor, until the ruffian named " Roaring John " 
picked him up and threw him into the next room. 
The incident was forgotten at once, and Captain 
Black became quite merry. 

" Bring in the victuals, you, John," he said, " and 
let Dick say us a grace ; he's been doing nothing 
but drink these eight hours." 

Dick, a red-haired, penetrating-looking Scots- 
man, who carried the economy of his race even to 
the extent of flesh, of which he was sparse, greeted 
the reproof by casting down his eyes into the empty 
can before him. 

u Is a body to cheer himself wi' naething ? " he 
asked ; " not wi' a bit food and drink after twa 
days' toil ? It's an unreasonable man ye are, Mister 
Black, an' I dinna ken if I'll remain another hoor as 
meenister to yer vessel." 

" Ho, ho, Dick the Ranter sends in his resigna- 
tion ; listen "to that, boys," said the Captain, who 
had found his humour again. " Dick will not 
serve the honourable company any longer. Ho, 



28 THE IRON PIRATE. 

swear for the strangers, Dick, and let 'em hear your 
tongue." 

The man, rascal and ill-tongued as I doubt not 
he was at times, refused to comply with the demand 
as the food at length was put upon the table. It 
was rich food, stews, with a profuse display of oysters, 
chickens, boiled, roast, a la maitre d'hotel, fine 
French trifles, pasties, ices and it was to be washed 
down, I saw, by draughts from magnums of Pom- 
jnery and Greno. I was, at this stage, so well 
accustomed to the scene that the novelty of a 
company of dirty, repulsive-looking seamen ban- 
queting in this style did not surprise me one whit, 
only I wished to be away from a place whose atmo- 
sphere poisoned me, and where every word seemed 
garnished with some horrible oath. I whispered 
this thought to Hall, and he said, " Yes," and rose 
to go, but the Captain pulled him back, crying 

u What, little Jew, you wouldn't eat at other 
people's cost ! Down with it, man, down with it ; 
fill your pockets, stuff 'em to the top. Let's see you 
laugh, old wizen-face, a great sixty per cent, croak, 
coming from your very boots here, you, John, give 
the man who hasn't got any money some more 
drink ; make him take a draught." 

The men were becoming warmed with the stuff 
they had taken, and furiously offensive. One of 
them held Hall while the others forced champagne 
clown his throat, and the man "Roaring John" 
attempted to pay me a similar compliment, but I 



THE IRON PIRATE. 29 

struck the cup from his hand, and he drew a knife, 
turning on me. The action was foolish, for in a 
moment a tumult ensued. I heard fierce cries, the 
smash of overturned boards and lights, and remem- 
bered no more than some terrific blows delivered 
with my left, as Molt of Cambridge taught me, a 
sharp pain in my right shoulder as a knife went 
home, the voice of Hall crying, " Make for the door 
the door," and the great yell of Captain Black 
above the others. His word, no doubt, saved us 
from greater harm ; for when I had thought that 
my foolhardiness had undone us, and that we should 
never leave the place alive, I found myself in the 
Rue Joubert with Hall at my side, he torn and 
bleeding as I was, but from a slight wound only. 

" That was near ending badly," he said, looking 
at the skin-deep cut on my shoulder. " They're 
wild enough sober, but Heaven save anyone from 
them when they're the other way ! " 

I looked at him steadily for a moment ; then I 
asked 

" Hall, what does it mean ? Who are these 
men, and what business carries you amongst them ? " 

" That you'll learn when you open the papers ; 
but I don't think you will open them yet, for I'm 
going to succeed." He was gay almost to frivolity 
once more. " Did you hear him ask me to sail 
with him from Dieppe to-morrow ': " 

"I did, and I believe you're fool enough to go. Did 
you see the look he gave you when he said ' Yes ' ? " 



30 THE IRON PIRATE 

" Never mind his look. I must risk that and 
more, as I have risked it many a time. Once aboard 
his yacht I shall have the key which will unlock six 
feet of rope for that man, or you may call me the 
Fool again." 

It was light with the roseate, warm light of a 
late summer's dawn as we reached the hotel. Paris 
slept, and the stillness of her streets greeted the life- 
giving day, while the grey mist floated away before 
the scattered sunbeams, and the houses stood clear- 
cut in the finer air. I was hungry for sleep, and 
too tired to think more of the strange dream-like 
scene I had witnessed ; but Hall followed me to my 
bedroom, and had yet a word to say. 

u Before we part we may not meet again for 
some time, for I leave Paris in a couple of hours I 
want to ask you to do me yet one more service. 
Your yacht is at Calais, I believe will you go aboard 
this morning and take her round to Plymouth ? 
There ask for news of the American's yacht he 
has only hired her, and she is called La France. 
News of the yacht will be news of me, and I shall 
be glad to think that someone is at my back in this 
big risk. If you should not hear of me, wait a 
month ; but if you get definite proof of my death, 
break the seal of the papers you hold and read 
but I don't think it will come to that." 

So saying, he left me with a hearty handshake. 
Poor fellow, I did not know then that I should break 
the seal of his papers within three days. 



CHAPTER III. 

" FOUR-EYES " DELIVERS A MESSAGE. 

A WARMING glare of the fuller sun upon my eyes, 
the cracking of whips, the shouting of fierce-lunged 
coachmen, the hum of moving morning life in the 
city, stirred me from a deep sleep as the clocks struck 
ten. I sat up in bed, uncertain in the effort of wit- 
gathering if night had not given me a dream rather 
than an experience, a chance play of the brain's 
imagining, and not a living knowledge of true scenes 
and strange men. For in this mood does nature 
often play with us, tricking us to fine thoughts as 
we lie dreaming, or creating such shows of life as 
we slumber, that in our first moments of wakeful- 
ness we do not detect the cheat or reckon with the 
phantoms. I knew not for some while, as I lay 
back listening to the hum of busy Paris, if the 
Perfect Fool had or had not told me anything, if we 
had gone together to a house near the Rue Joubert, 
or if \ve had remained in the hotel, if he had begged 
of me some favour, or if I had dreamed it. All was 
but a confused mind-picture, changing as a kaleido- 
scope, blurred, shadowy. It might have remained 
so long, had I not, looking about the room, become 
aware that a letter, neatly folded, lay on the small 
table at my bedside. It was the letter which 



32 THE IRON PIRATE. 

brought the consciousness of reality ; and in that 
moment I knew that I had not dreamed but lived 
the curious events of the night. But these are the 
words which Martin Hall wrote : 

" Hotel Scribe. Seven a.m. I leave in ten 
minutes, and write you here my last word. We 
shall sail from Dieppe at midnight. Do not forget 
to cross to Plymouth if you have any friendship for 
me. I look to you alone. MARTIN HALL." 

He had left Paris then, and set out upon his 
great risk. The man's awe-inspiring courage, his 
immense self-reliance, his deep purpose, were marked 
strongly in those few simple words, and I had never 
felt so great an admiration for him. He looked to 
me alone, and assuredly he should not look in vain. 
I would follow him to Plymouth, losing no moment 
in the act ; and I resolved then to go farther if the 
need should be, and to search for him in every land 
and on every sea, for he was a brave man whose 
like I had not often known. 

I dressed in haste with this intention, and went 
to dejeuner in our private room below. Roderick 
was there, sleepy over his bottle of bad Bordeaux, 
and Mary, who insisted on taking an English break- 
fast, was in the height of a dissertation on Parisian 
tea. 

u Did you ever see anything so feeble ? " she 
said, being fond of Roderick's speech mannerisms 



THE IRON PIRATE. 33 

and often mimicking them. " Isn't it pretty awful ? " 
and she poured some from her spoon. 

" ' Pretty awful ' is not the expression for a 
polite young woman," replied Roderick, with a 
severe yawn ; " anyone who comes to Paris for tea 
deserves what he gets." 

" Yes, and what he gets ' takes the biscuit.' " 

" Mary ! " 

" Well, you always say, ' takes the biscuit ' ; why 
shouldn't I ? " 

" Because, my child, because," said Roderick, 
slowly and paternally, " because why, here's Mark. 
Hallo ! you're a pretty fellow ; I hope } r ou enjoyed 
yourself last night. 1 ' 

u Exceedingly, thanks ; in fact, I may say that 
I had a most delightful evening with men who 
suited me to the tea thank you, Mary ! I'll 
take a cup and now tell me, what has he bought 
you ? " 

I thought that a judicious policy of dissimulation 
was the wise course at that time, for I had not then 
determined to share my secret even with Roderick, 
as, indeed, by my word I wau bound not to do until 
Hall should so wish. In this intent I hid all 
my serious mood, and continued the pleasant 
chatter. 

Mary had soon poured out a cup of the decoction 
which Frenchmen call tea, an aqueous product, the 
fluid of chopped hay long stewed in tepid water, and 
then she answered 



34 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" Let me see, now, what did Roderick buy me ? 
Oh, yes ! I remember, he bought me a meerschaum 
pipe and a walking-stick ! " 

" A what ? " I gasped. 

" A meerschaum pipe, and a walking-stick with 
a little man to hold matches on the top of it." 

Roderick looked guilty, and admitted it. 

i( You see," he said in apology, " they sold only 
those things at the first place we came to, and you 
don't expect a fellow to walk in Paris, do you ? 
Now, when I've rested after breakfast, I suggest 
that we all make up our minds for a long stroll, and 
get to the Palais Royal." 

u Well, that's about three hundred yards from 
here, isn't it ? Are you quite sure you're equal to 
it ? " 

He looked at me reproachfully. 

" You don't want a man to kill himself on his 
holiday, do you ? You're fatally energetic. Now, 
I believe that the science of life is rest, the calm 
survey of great problems from the depths of an 
armchair. It's astonishing how easy things are if 
you take them that way ; never let anything agitate 
you I never do." 

" No, he don't, does he, Mary ? But about this 
excursion to the Palais Royal ; I'm afraid you'll have 
to go alone, for I have just had a letter which calls 
me back to the yacht. It's awfully unfortunate, 
but I must go, although I will return here in a 
week, if possible, and pick you up ; otherwise, you 



THE IRON PIRATE. 35 

will hear of my movements as soon as I know them 
myself." 

Somewhat to my astonishment, they both looked 
at me, saying nothing, but evidently very much 
surprised. Mary's big eyes were wide open with 
amazement, but Roderick had a more serious look 
on his face. He did not question me, he did not 
say a word, but I felt his thought " You hold 
something back" and the mute reproach was 
keen. Perhaps some explanation would then have 
been demanded had not another interruption 
broken the unwelcome silence. One of the servants 
of the hotel entered to tell me that a man who 
wished to speak with me was waiting outside, and 
asked if I would see him there or in the privacy of 
our room. As I could not recall that anyone in 
Paris had any business with me, I said, " Send the 
man here " ; and presently he entered, when to my 
intense surprise I found him to be no other than 
one of the ruffians the one called " Four-Eyes " by 
the Captain of the company I had met on the 
previous evening. Not that he seemed in any way 
abashed at the meeting he walked into the room 
with a seaman's lurch, and steadied himself only 
when -he saw Mary. Then he rang an imaginary 
bell-rope on his forehead, and " hitched " himself 
together, as sailors say, looking for all the world 
like some great dog that has entered a house where 
dogs are forbidden. His first words were somewhat 
unexpected 



36 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" Oi was priest's boy in Tipperary, bedad." said 
he, and then he looked round as if that information 
should put him on good terms with us. 

" Will you sit down, please ? " was my request 
as he stood fingering his hat, and looking at Mary 
as though he had seen a vision, " and permit me to 
ask what the fact of your serving a priest in Ireland 
has to do with your presence here now ? " 

" That brings us to the point av it, and thank- 
ing yer honor, it's meself that ain't aisy on them 
land-craft which don't carry me cargo on an even 
keel at all, so I'll be standin', with no offence to 
the Missy, sure, an' gettin' to the writin' which is 
fur yer honor's ear alone as me instruckthshuns 
goes." 

He rang the bell-rope over his right eye again, 
and gave me a letter, well written on good paper. 
I watched him as I read it, and saw that in a power 
of eye that was astounding, he had fixed one orb 
upon Mary and one upon the ceiling, and that the 
two objects shared his gaze, while his body swayed as 
though he was unaccustomed to balance himself 
upon a fair floor. But I read his letter, and write 
it for you here 

" Captain Black presents his compliments to 
Mr. Mark Strong, whom he had the pleasure of 
receiving last night, and regrets the reception 
which was offered to him. Captain Black hopes 
that it will be his privilege to receive Mr. Strong on 



THE IRON PIRATE. 37 

his yacht La France, now lying over against the 
American vessel Portland, in Dieppe harbour, at 1 1 
to-night, and to extend to him hospitality worthy 
of him and his host." 

Now, that was a curious thing indeed. Not 
only did it appear that my pretence of being Hall's 
partner in trade was completely unmasked by this 
man of the Rue Joubert ; but he had my name 
and, by his tone in writing, it was clear that he 
knew my position, and the fact that I was no trader 
at all. Whether such knowledge was good for me, 
I could not then say ; but I made up my mind to 
act with cunning, and to shield Hall in so far as was 
possible. 

" Did your master tell you to wait for any 
answer ? " I asked suddenly, as the seaman brought 
his right eye from the direction of the ceiling and 
fixed it upon me ; and he said 

" Is it for the likes of me to be advisin' yer 
honor ? ' Sure,' says he, ' if the gentleman has the 
moind to wroite he'll wroite, if he has the moind to 
come aboard me meanin' his yacht he'll come 
aboard ; and we'll be swimming in liquor together 
as gents should. And if so be as the gentleman ' 
(which is yer honor), says he, ' will condescend 
to wipe his fate on me cabin shates, let him be 
aboard at Dieppe afore seven bells,' says he, ' and 
we'll shame the ould divil with a keg, and heave at 
daybreak ' which is yer honor's pleasure, or other- 
wise, as it's me juty to larn ! " 



38 THE IRON PIRATE 

It needed no very clever penetration on my 
part to read danger in every line of this invitation 
not only danger to myself, who had been dragged 
by the heels into the business, but danger to Hall, 
whose disguise could scarce be preserved when mine 
was unmasked. And yet he had left Paris, and 
even then, perhaps, was in the power of the man 
Black and his crew ! What I could do to help him, 
I could not think ; but I determined if possible to 
glean something from the palpably cunning rogue 
who had come on the errand. 

" I'll give you the answer to this in a minute," 
said I ; " meanwhile, have a little whisky ? A sea- 
man like yourself doesn't thrive on cold water, does 
he?" 

" Which is philosophy, yer honor for could 
wather never warmed any man yet me respects to 
the young lady " here he looked deep into his 
glass, adding slowly, and as if there was credit to 
him in the recollection, " Oi was priest's boy in 
Tipperary, bedad " and he drank the half of a stiff 
glass at a draught. 

u Do you find this good weather in the 
Channel ? " I inquired suddenly, looking hard at 
him over the table. 

He made circles with his glass, and turned his 
eyes upon Mary, before he answered ; and when he 
did, his voice died away like the fall of a gale which 
is tired. " Noice weather, did ye say by the houly 
saints, it depends." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 39 

u On what ? " I asked, driving the question home. 

u On yer company/' said he, returning my gaze, 
" and yer sowl." 

" That's curious ! '' 

u Yes, if ye have one to lose, and put anny price 
on it." 

His meaning was too clear. 

u Tell your master, with my compliments," I 
responded, " that I will come another time I have 
business in Paris to-day ! " 

He still looked at me earnestly, and when he 
spoke again his voice had a fatherly ring. " If I 
make bold, it's yer honor's forgiveness I ask but, if 
it was me that was in Paris I'd stay there," and 
putting his glass down quickly, he rolled to the 
door, fingered his hat there for one moment, put it 
on awry, and with the oft-repeated statement, " Oi 
was priest's boy in Tipperary, bedad," he swayed 
out of the room. 

When he was gone, the others, who had not 
spoken, turned to me, their eyes asking for an 
explanation. 

u One of Hall's friends," I said, trying to look 
unconcerned, " the mate on the yacht La France 
the vessel he joins to-day." 

Roderick tapped the table with his fingers ; 
Mary was very white, I thought. 

" He knows a queer company," I added, with a 
grim attempt at jocularity, " they're almost as rough 
as he is." 



40 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" Do you still mean to sail to-night ? " asked 
Roderick. 

u I must ; I have made a promise to reach 
Plymouth without a moment's delay." 

l< Then I sail with you," said he, being very 
wide-awake. 

" Oh, but you can't leave Paris ; you promised 
Mary ! " 

" Yes, and I release him at once," interrupted 
Mary, the colour coming and going in her pretty 
cheeks. " I shall sail from Calais to-night with you 
and Roderick." 

" It's very kind of you but you see " 

" That we mean to come," added Roderick 
quickly. " Go and pack your things, Mary ; I have 
something to say to Mark." 

We were alone, he and I, but there was be- 
tween us the first shadow that had come upon 
our friendship. 

u Well," said he, " how much am I to 
know ? " 

" What you choose to learn, and as much as 
your eyes teach you it's a promise, and I've given 
my word on it." 

" I was sure of it. But I don't like it, all the 
same I distrust that fool, who seems to me a per- 
fect madman. He'll drag you into some mess, if 
you'll let him. I suppose there's no danger yet, 
or you wouldn't let Mary come ! " 

" There can be no risk now, be quite sure of 



THE IRON PIRATE. 41 

that we are going for a three days' cruise in the 
Channel, that is all." 

" All you care to tell me well, I can't ask 
more ; what time do you start ? " 

'' By the club train. I have t\vo hours' work to 
do yet, but I will meet you at the station, if you'll 
bring my bag " 

" Of course and I can rest for an hour. That 
always does me good in the morning." 

I left him so, being myself harassed by many 
thoughts. The talk with Black's man did not leave 
me any longer in doubt that Hall had gone to great 
risk in setting out with the ruffian's crew ; and I 
resolved that if by any chance it could be done, I 
would yet call him back to Paris. For this I 
went at once to the office of the Police, and laid 
as much of the case before one of the heads as I 
thou ght needful to my purpose. He laughed at 
me ; the yacht La France was known to him as 
the property of an eccentric American millionaire, 
and he could not conceive that anyone might be 
in danger aboard her. As there was no hope from 
him, I took a fiacre and drove to the Embassy, 
where one of the clerks heard my whole story ; 
and while inwardly laughing at my fears, as I 
could see, promised to telegraph to a friend in 
Calais, and get my message delivered. 

I had done all in my power, and I returned to 
the Hotel Scribe ; but the others had left for 
the station. Thither I followed them, instructing a 



42 THE IRON PIRATE. 

servant to come to me at the Gare du Nord if any 
telegram should be sent ; and so reached the train, 
and the saloon. It was not, however, until the 
very moment of our departure that a messenger 
raced to our carriage, and thrust a paper at me ; 
and then I knew that my warning had come toe 
late. The paper said : " La France has sailed, and 
your friend with her." 



CHAPTER IV. 

A STRAN'GE SIGHT ON THE SEA. 

IT was on the morning of the second day ; three 
bells in the watch ; the wind playing fickle from 
east by south, and the sea agold with the light 
of an August sun. Two points west of north to 
starboard I saw the chalky cliffs of the Isle of 
Wight faint through the haze, but away ahead 
the Channel opened out as an unbroken sea. The 
yacht lay without life in her sails, the flow of the 
swell beating lazily upon her, and the great main- 
sail rocking on the boom. We had been out 
twenty-four hours, and had not made a couple of 
hundred miles. The delay angered every man 
aboard the Celsis, since every man aboard knew 
that it was a matter of concern to me to over- 
take the American yacht, La France, and that a 
life might go with long-continued failure. 

As the bells were struck, and Piping Jack, our 
boatswain they called him Piping Jack because he 
had a sweetheart in every port from Plymouth to 
Aberdeen, and wept every time we put to sea 
piped down to breakfast, my captain betrayed his 
irritation by an angry sentence. He was not given 
to words, was Captain York, and the men knew 



44 THE IRON PIRATE. 

him as " The Silent Skipper " ; but twenty-four 
hours without wind enough to <( blow a bug," as he 
put it, was too much for any man's te riper. 

u I tell you what, sir," he said, sweeping the 
horizon with his glass for the tenth time in ten 
minutes, " this American of yours has taken the 
breeze in his pocket, and may it blow him to 
I beg your pardon, I did not see that the 
young lady had joined us." 

But Mary was there, fresh as a rose dipped in 
dew, and as Roderick followed her up the com- 
panion ladder, we held a consultation, the fifth since 
we left Calais. 

" It's my opinion," said Roderick, " that if those 
men of yours had not been ashore on leave, York, 
and we could have sailed at midnight, we should 
have done the business and been in Paris again by 
this time." 

" It's my opinion, sir, that your opinion is not 
worth a cockroach,'' cried the captain quite testily ; 
" the men have nothing to do with it. Look above ; 
if you'll show me how to move this ship without a 
hatful of wind, I'll do it, sir," and he strutted off to 
breakfast, leaving us with Dan, the forward look-out. 

Dan was a grand old seaman, and there wasn't 
one of us who didn't appeal to him in our diffi- 
culties. 

11 Do you think it means to blow, Dan ? " I asked, 
as I offered him my tobacco-pouch : and Mary said 
earnestly 



THE IRON PIRATE. 45 

" Oh, Daniel, I do wish a gale would come on ! '' 

" Ay, Miss, and so do many of us ; but we can't 
be making wind no more'n we can make wittals 
and excusing me, Miss, it ain't Daniel, not meaning 
no disrespect to the other gent, whose papers were 
all right, I don't doubt, but my mother warn't easy 
in laming, and maybe didn't know of him it's Dan, 
Miss, free-and-easy like, but nat'ral.'' 

" Well, Dan, do you think it will blow ? Can't 
you promise it will blow ? " 

u Lor, Miss, I'd promise ye anything ; but what 
is nater is nater, and there's an end on it not as I 
don't say there won't be a hatful o' wind afore night 
why should I ? but as for promisin' of it, why I'd 
give ye a hurricane willing or two." 

We went down to breakfast, the red of sea 
strength on our cheeks ; and in the cosy saloon we 
made short work of the coffee and soles, the great 
heaps of toast, and the fresh fruit. I could not help 
some gloomy thoughts as I found myself on my own 
schooner again, asking how long she would be 
mine, and how I should suffer the loss of her when 
all my money was spent. These were cast off in 
the excitement of the chase, and came only in the 
moments of absolute calm, when all the men aboard 
fretted and fumed, and every other question was : 
" Isn't it beginning to blow ? " 

The morning passed in this way, a long morning, 
with the sea like a mirror, and the sun as a great 
circle of red fire in the haze. Hour after hour 



46 THE IRON PIRATE. 

we walked from the fore-hatch to the tiller, from 
the tiller to the fore-hatch, varying the exercise with 
a full inspection of every craft that showed above 
the horizon. At eight bells we lay a few miles 
farther westward, the island still visible to the star- 
board, but less distinct. At four bells, when we 
went to lunch, the heat was terrible below, and 
the sun was terrible on deck ; but yet there was 
not a breeze. At six bells some dark and dirty 
clouds rose up from the south, and twenty hands 
pointed to them. At " one bell in the first dog " 
the clouds were thick, and the sun was hidden. 
Half-an-hour later there was a shrill whistling in 
the shrouds, and the rain began to patter on the 
deck, while the booms fretted, and we relieved her 
in part of her press of sail. When the squall struck 
us at last, the Channel was foaming with long lines 
of choppy seas ; and the sky southward was dark 
as ink. But there was only joy of it aboard ; 
we stood gladly as the Celsis heeled to it, and rising 
free as an unslipped hound, sent the spray flying 
in clouds, and dipped her decks to the foam 
which washed her. 

During one hour, when we must have made 
eleven knots, the wind blew strong, and was fresh 
again after that ; so that we set the foresail unreefed 
and let the great mainsail go not many minutes 
later. The swift motion was an ecstasy to all of 
us, an unbounded delight ; and even the skipper 
softened as we stood well out to sea, and looked on 



THE IRON PIRATE. 47 

a great continent of clouds underlit with the spread- 
ing glow of the sunset, their rain setting up the 
mighty arched bow whose colours stood out with a 
rich light over the wide expanse of the east. Nor 
did the breeze fall, but stiffened towards night, 
so that in the first bell, when we came up from 
dinner, the Celsis was straining and foaming as she 
bent under her pressure of canvas, and it needed a 
sailor's foot to tread her decks. But of this no 
one thought, for we had hardly come above when 
we heard Dan hailing 

"Yacht on the port-bow." 

" What name ? " came from twenty throats. 

"La France" said Dan, and the words had 
scarce left his lips when the skipper roared the 
order 

" Stand by to go about ! " 

For some minutes the words <( 'bout ship " were 
not spoken. The schooner held her course, and 
rapidly drew up with the yacht we had set out 
to seek. From the first there was no doubt 
about her name, which she displayed in great 
letters of gold above her figure-head. Dan had 
read them as he sighted her ; and we in turn 
felt a thrill of delight as we proved his keen 
vision, watching the big cutter, for such she was, 
heading, not for Plymouth, but for the nearer 
coast. But this was not the only strange thing 
about her course, for when she had made some 
few hundred yards towards the coast, she jibbed 



48 THE IRON PIRATE. 

round of a sudden, with an appalling wrench at 
the horse ; and there being, as it appeared, no 
hand either at the peak halyards or the throat 
halyards, the mainsail presently showed a great 
rent near the luff, while the foresail had torn 
free from the bolt-ropes of the stay, and was 
presenting a sorry spectacle as the yacht went 
about, and away towards France again. 

Such a display of seamanship astounded our 
men. 

u Close haul, you lubbers ; close haul ! " roared 
Dan, in the vain delusion that his voice would 
be heard a quarter of a mile away. " Keep down 
yer 'elm and close haul wash me in rum if he ain't 
comin' up again, and there she goes right into it. 
Shake up, you gibbering fools ; luff her a bit and 
make fast. Did ye ever see anythin' like it this 
side of a Margit steamer ? " 

The skipper said nothing, but as the yacht 
luffed right up into the wind again, he groaned as 
a man who is hurt. Piping Jack looked sorrow- 
ful too, and said, almost with tears in his eyes 

" Axin' yer pardon, sir, but hev you got a pair 
of eyes in your head which can make out anything 
unusual aboard there ? " 

" They're a queer lot, if that's what you mean, 
and they haven't got enough seamanship amongst 
them to run a washing tub. Is there anything else 
you make out ? " 

" A good deal, sir ; and look you, there ain't a 



THE IRON PIRATE. 49 

living soul on her deck, or may I never see shore 
again." 

" By all that's curious, you're right. There isn't 
a man showing ! " 

" 'Bout ship," roared the skipper, and every man 
ran to his post, while I touched Captain York on 
the shoulder and pointed to the seemingly deserted 
and errant yacht. 

But the skipper's eyes were not those of a 
ground-gazer ; he needed no aid from me ; what 
others had seen, he had seen, and he nodded an 
affirmative to my unspoken question. 

" What do you think it means ? " I asked, as 
we came up into the wind, and the men were 
belaying after close hauling for the beat ; " are 
they hiding from us,' or is she deserted ? " 

But the only answer I got was the one word 
" Rum,'' uttered with a jerky emphasis, and taken 
up by Dan, who said 

" Very rum, and a good many drunk below, or I 
don't know the taste of it.'' 

The obvious thought that the yacht we had 
sought and run down was without living men upon 
her decks had taken the lilt from the seamen's 
merry tongues, and a gloom settled on us all. 
Perhaps it was more than a mere surmise, for an 
uncanny feeling of something dreadful to come 
took hold of me, and I feared that, finding the 
yacht, we had also found the devil's work ; but I 
held my peace on that, and made up my mind to act. 



50 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" Skipper," said I, " order a boat out ; I'm going 
aboard her.'' 

He looked at me, and shook his head. 

" When the wind falls, perhaps ; but now ! " 
and he shrugged his shoulders. 

" Is there any sign that the breeze will drop ? " 

" None at present ; but I'll tell you more in an 
hour. Meanwhile," and here he whispered, "get 
your pistols out and say nothing to the men. I 
shall follow her." 

His advice was wise ; and as the dark began to 
fall and the night breeze to blow fresh, while the 
yacht ahead of us swung here and there, almost 
making circles about us, we hove to for the time 
and watched her. I begged Mary to go below, but 
she received the suggestion with merriment. 

u Go below, when the men say there's fun 
coming ! Why should I go below ? " 

" Because it may be serious fun." 

She took my arm, and linking herself closely to 
me as to a brother, she said 

" Because there's danger to you and to Roderick ; 
isn't that it, Mark ? " 

" Not to us any more than to the men ; and 
there may be no danger, of course. It's only a 
thought of mine." 

" And of mine, too. I shall stay where I am, or 
Roderick will go to sleep." 

u What does Roderick say ? " 

He had joined us on the starboard side, and was 



THE IRON PIRATE. 51 

gazing over the sea at the pursued yacht, which lay 
shaking dead in the wind's eye, but Mary's question 
upset whatever speculation he had entered upon. 

" I've got an opinion,'' he drawled, with a yawn. 

" You don't say so " 

u The wind's falling, and it's getting beastly 
dark.'' 

" Two fairly obvious conclusions ; do you think 
you could keep sufficiently awake to help man 
the boat ? in another ten minutes we shall see 
nothing. 1 ' 

" Do you think I'm a fool, that I'm going to 
stop here? " 

'' Forgive me, but I'm getting anxious. Martin 
Hall sailed on that yacht ; and I promised to help 
him but there's no need for you to do anything, 
you know." 

"No need when you are going pshaw, I'll 
fetch my Colt, and Mary shall watch us. I don't 
think she is afraid of much, are you, Rats ? " he 
called her " Rats " because they were the one thing 
on earth she feared and then he went below, and 
I followed him, getting my revolver and my oil- 
skins, for I knew that it would be wet work. I 
had scarce reached the deck again when I felt the 
schooner moving ; but no break of light showed 
the place where the other was, and the skipper 
called presently for a blue flare, which cast a glow- 
ing light for many hundred yards, and still left us 
uncertain. 



52 THE IRON PIRATE 

" She's gone, for sure," said Dan to the men 
around him, for every soul on board, even including 
old Chasselot called by the men " Cuss-a-lot "- 
our cook, was staring into the thick night ; " and I 
wouldn't stake a noggin that her crew ain't cheated 
the old un at last an' gone down singing. It's 
mighty easy to die with your head full o' rum, but 
I don't go for to choose it meself, not particler." 

Billy Eightbells, the second mate, was quite of 
Dan's opinion. The looks of the others told me 
then that they began to fear the adventure. Billy 
was the first really to give expression to the common 
sentiment. 

u Making bold to speak," he said, " it were two 
years ago come Christmas as I met something like 
this afore, down Rio way- 1 " 

" Was it at eight bells, Billy ? " asked Mary mis- 
chievously. She knew that all Billy's yarns began 
at eight bells. 

"Well, I think it were, mum, but as I was 
saying 

"Flash again," said the skipper, suddenly inter- 
rupting the harangue, and as the blue light flashed 
we saw right ahead of us the wanderer we sought ; 
but she was bearing down upon us, and there was 
fear in the skipper's voice when he roared 

u For God's sake, hard a-starboard ! " 

The helm went over, and the yacht loomed up 
black, as our own light died away ; and passed us 
within a cable's length. What lift of the night 



THE IRON PIRATE. 53 

there was showed us her decks again ; but they 
were not deserted, for as one or two aboard gave a 
great cry, I saw the white and horridly distorted 
face of a man who clung to the main shrouds and 
he alone was guardian of the wanderer. 

The horrid vision struck my own men with a 
deadly fearing. 

" May the Lord help us ! " said Dan. 

" And him ! " added Piping Jack solemnly. 

" Was he alive, d'you think ? " asked Dan. 

" It's my opinion he'd seen something as no 
Christian man ought to see. Please God, we all 
get to port again ! " 

" Please God ! " said half-a-dozen ; and their 
words had meaning. 

For myself, my thoughts were very different. 
That vision of the man I had left well and hopeful 
and strong not three days since was terrible to me. 
A brave man had gone to his death, but to what a 
death, if that agonised face and distorted visage 
betokened aught ! And I had promised to aid him, 
and was drifting there with the schooner, raising 
no hand to give him help. 

" Skipper," I cried, " this time we'll risk getting 
a boat off ; I'm going aboard that vessel now, if I 
drown before I return." Then I turned to the men, 
and said : " You saw the yacht pass just now, and 
you saw that man aboard her he's my friend, and 
I'm going to fetch him. Who amongst you is 
coming with me ? " 



54 THE IRON PIRATE. 

They hung back for a moment before the stuff 
that was in them showed itself ; then Dan lurched 
out, and said 

" I go ! " 

Billy Eightbells followed. 

: ' And I," said he, " if it's the Old One himself." 

" And I," said Piping Jack. 

" And T," said Planks, the carpenter. 

" Come on, then, and take your knives in 
your belts. Skipper, put about and show another 
light." 

He obeyed mechanically, saying nothing ; but 
he was a brave man, I knew. It was our luck to 
find that the boat went away from the davits with 
no more than a couple of buckets of water in her ; 
and in two minutes' time the men were giving way, 
and we rose and fell to the still choppy sea, while 
the green spray ran from our oilskins in gallons. 
In this way we made a couple of hundred yards in 
the direction we judged the yacht would turn, and 
lit a flash. It showed her a quarter of a mile away, 
jibbing round and coming into the wind again. 

" We shall catch her on the tack if she holds 
her bearing,'' said Dan, " and be aboard in ten 
minutes." 

" What then ? " said Billy. 

" Ay, what then ? " echoed the others. 

" But it's a friend of the guv'nor's," repeated 
Dan, u and he's in danger no common danger, 
neither. Please God, we all get to port again." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 55 

" Please God ! " they responded, and Roderick, 
who sat at the tiller with me, whispered 

" I never saw men who liked a job less." 

As the good fellows gave way again, and the 
boat rode easily before the wind, I noticed for the 
first time that the clouds were scattering ; and we 
had not made another cable's length when a great 
cloud above us showed silver at its edges, and 
opaquely white in its centre, through which the 
moon shone. Anon it dissolved, and the trans- 
formation on the surface of the water was a trans- 
formation from the dark of storm to the chrome 
light of a summer moon. There, around us, the 
panorama stretched out : the sea, white-waved and 
rolling ; the lights of a steamer to port ; of a couple 
of sailing vessels astern ; of a fishing fleet away 
ahead, and nearer to the shore. But these we had 
no thought for, since the deserted yacht was beating 
up to us, and we stood right in her track. 

"Get a grapnel forward, and look out there," 
cried Dan, who was in command ; and Billy stood 
ready, while we could hear the swish of the waves 
against the cutter's bows, and every man instinc- 
tively put his hand on his pistol or his knife. 

As if to help us, the wind fell away as the 
schooner came up, and she began to shake her 
sails ; making no way as she headed almost due 
east. It seemed a fit moment for effort, and Dan 
had just sung out " Give way," when every man 
who had gripped an oar let go the handle again 



56 THE IRON PIRATE. 

and sat with horror writ on his countenance. For, 
almost with the words of the order, there was the 
sound as of fierce contest, of the bursting of wood, 
and the spread of flame ; and in that instant the 
decks of the yacht were ripped up, and sheets of 
fire rose from them to the rigging above. The 
light of this mighty flare spread instantly over the 
sea about her, and far away you could look on the 
rolling waves, red as waves of fire. A terrible sight 
it was, and terrible sounds were those of the wood 
rending with the heat, of the stays snapping and 
flying, of the hissing of the flame where it met the 
water. But it was a sight of infinite horror to us, 
because we knew that one who might yet live was 
a prisoner of the conflagration the one passenger, 
as it seemed then, of the vessel which was doomed. 

u Give way," roared Dan again, for the men sat 
motionless with terror. " Are you going to let him 
burn ? May God have mercy on him, for he needs 
mercy ! " 

The words awed them. They shot the long- 
boat forward ; and I stood in her stern to observe, 
if I could, what passed on the burning decks. And 
I saw a sight the like to which I pray that I may 
never see again. Martin Hall stood at the main 
shrouds, motionless, volumes of flame around him, 
his figure clear to be viewed by that awful beacon. 

u Why doesn't he jump it ? " I called aloud. 
" If he can't swim, he could keep above until we're 
alongside " ; and then I roared u Ahoy ! " and every 



THE IRON PIRATE. 57 

man repeated the cry, calling " Ahoy ! " each time 
he bent to his oar, his voice hoarse with excitement. 
But Martin Hall never moved, his gaunt figure was 
motionless the flames beat upon it, it did not 
stir ; and we drew near enough anon and knew 
the worst. 

" Devils' work, devils' work ! " said Dan ; " he's 
lashed there and he's dead ! " But the men still 
cried " Ahoy ! " as they rushed their oars through 
the water, and were as those mad with fiery drink. 

" Easy ! " roared Dan. u Easy, for a parcel of 
stark fools ! Would you run alongside her ? " 

There they lay, for any nearer approach would 
have been perilous, and even in that place where 
we were, twenty feet on the windward side, the 
heat was nigh unbearable. So near were we that I 
looked close as it might be into the dead face of 
Martin Hall, and saw that the fiends who had 
lashed him there had done their work too well. 
But I hoped in my heart that he had been dead 
when the end of the ship had begun to come, 
and that it were no reproach to me that, he had 
perished : for to save his body from that holocaust 
was work no man might do. 

So did we watch the mounting fire, and the last 
tack of the yacht La France. Saucily she raised 
her head to a new breeze, shook her great sail of 
flame in the night, and scattered red light about 
her. Then she dipped her burning jib as if in 
salute, and there was darkness 
c 



58 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" Rest to a good ship," said Dan, in melancholy 
mood ; but 1 said 

u Rest to a friend." I had known the man 
whose death had come ; and when his body went 
below I hungered for the grip of the hand which 
was then washed by jhe Channel waves. 

" Give way," I cried to the men, who sat silent 
in their fear of it, and when they rowed again they 
cried as before, u Ahoy " : so strong and vivid was 
the picture which the sea had then put out. 

As we neared our own ship, Roderick endea- 
voured to speak to me, but his voice failed, and he 
took my hand, giving it a great grip. Then we 
came on board, where Mary waited for us with a 
white face, and the others stood silent ; but we 
said nothing to them, going below. There I locked 
myself in my own cabin, and though fatigue lay 
heavy on me, and my eyes were clouded with the 
touch of sleep, I took Martin Hall's papers from 
my locker, and lighted the lamp to read them 
through. 

But not without awe, for they were ? message 
from the dead. 



CHAPTER V. 

THE WRITING OF MARTIN HALL. 

THE manuscript, which was sealed on its cover in 
many places, consisted of several pages of close 
writing, and of sketches and scraps from news- 
papers Italian, French, and English. The sketches 
I looked at first, and was not a little surprised to 
see that one of them was the portrait of the man 
known as " Roaring John," whom I had met at 
Paris in the strange company ; while there was 
with this a blurred and faint outline of the features 
of the seaman called " Four-Eyes," who had come 
to me at the Hotel Scribe with the bidding to go 
aboard La France. But what, perhaps, was even 
more difficult to be understood was the picture of 
the great hull of what I judged to be a warship, 
showing her a-building, with the work yet pro- 
gressing on her decks. The newspaper cuttings 
I deemed to be in some part an explanation of 
these sketches, for one of them gave a description 
of a very noteworthy battleship, constructed for a 
South American Republic, but in much secrecy ; 
while another hinted that great pains had been 
taken with the vessel, which was built at a mighty 
cost, and on so new a plan that the shipwrights 



60 THE IRON PIRATE. 

refused to give information concerning her until 
she had been some months at sea to prove her. 

All this reading remained enigmatical, of course, 
and as I could make nothing of it to connect it 
with the events I have narrated, I went on to the 
writing, which was fine and small, as the writing of 
an exact man. And the words upon the head of it 
were these : 

SOME ACCOUNT OF A NAMELESS 
WARSHIP, 

OF HER CREW, AND HER PURPOSE. 

Written for the eyes of Mark Strong, by Martin 
Hall, sometime his friend. 

I put from me the sorrow of the thought which 
the last three words brought to me, and read there- 
from this history, which had these few sentences as 
its preface : 

" You read these words, Mark Strong, when I 
am dead ; and I would ask you before you go 
further with them to consider well if you would 
wish, or have inclination for, a pursuit in which 
I have lost all that a man can lose, and in which 
your risk, do you take the work upon you, will be 
no less than mine was. For if you read what is 
written here, and have in you that stuff which can- 
not brook mystery, and is fired when mystery also 



THE IRON PIRATE. 61 

is danger, I know that you will venture upon this 
undertaking at the point where death has held my 
hand ; and that by so doing you may reap where I 
have sown. And with this, think nor act in any 
haste lest you lay to my charge that which may 
befall you in the pursuit you are about to begin." 

I read on, for the desire to do justice to Martin 
Hall was strong upon me at the very beginning 
of it. 

From that place the story was in great part 
autobiographical, but in no sense egotistical. It 
was, as you shall see, the simple narration of a man 
sincere in his dreaming, if he did dream ; logical 
in his madness, if he were mad. And this was his 
story as first I read it : 

" Having well considered the warning which is 
the superscription of this record, you have deter- 
mined to continue this narrative, I do not doubt ; 
for I judge you to be a man who, having tasted the 
succulent dish of curiosity, will not put it away 
until you have eaten your fill. I will tell you, 
therefore, such a part of my life as you should 
know when you come to ask yourself the question, 
1 Is this man a fool or an imbecile, a crack-brained 
faddist or the victim of hallucination ? ' This 
question should arise at a later stage, and I beg 
you not to put it until you have read every word 
that I have written here. 



62 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" I was born in Liverpool, thirty-three years 
ago, and was educated for a very few years at the 
well-known institute in that city. They taught 
me there that consciousness of ignorance which is 
half an education ; and being the son of a man who 
starved on a fine ability for modelling things in 
chiy, and plaster-moulding, I went out presently to 
make my living. First to America, you doubt not, 
to get the experience of coming home again ; then 
to the Cape, to watch other men dig diamonds ; to 
Rome, to Naples, to Genoa, that I might know 
what it was to want food ; to South America as 
an able seaman ; to Australia in the stoke-hole of a 
South Sea liner ; home again to my poor father, 
who lay dead when I reached Liverpool. 

" I was twenty-two years old then, and glutted 
with life. I had no relation living that I knew of ; 
no friend who was not also a plain acquaintance. 
By what chance it was I cannot tell, but I drifted 
like a living log into the detective force of my city, 
and after working up for a few years through the 
grades, they put me on the landing stage at Liver- 
pool to watch the men who wished to emigrate be- 
cause they had no opinion of the police force here. 
It was miserable employment, but educating, for it 
taught me to read faces that were disguised, old 
men became beardless, young men made old at the 
touch of a coiffeur. I suppose I had more than 
common success, for when I had been so employed 
for five years, I was sent to London by our people 



THE IRON PIRATE. 63 

and there commanded to go to the Admiralty and 
get new instructions. Regard this, please, as the 
first mark in this record I am making. Of my 
work for our own people I may not tell even you, 
since I engaged upon it under solemn bond of 
secrecy ; but I can indicate that I was sent to 
Italy to pick up facts in the dockyards there, and 
that our people relied on my gifts of disguise, and 
on my knowledge of Italian, learnt upon Italian 
ships and in Italian ports. In short, I was ex- 
pected to provide plans and accounts of many 
things material to our own service, and I entered 
on the business with alacrity, gained admittance 
to the public dockyards, and knew in a twelve- 
month all that any man could learn who had his 
wits only to guide him, and as much of those 
of other men as he could pick up. 

" But I imagine your natural impatience, and 
your mental exclamation, ' What has all this rig- 
marole to do with me how does it affect this 
pretended narrative ? ' Bear with me a moment 
when I tell you that it is vital to my story. It 
was in Italy during my second year of work that 
I had cause to be at Spezia, inspecting there a 
new type of gun-boat about which there was 
much talk and many opinions. I have no need 
to tell you, who have not the bombastic know- 
ledge of a one-city man, that at Spezia is to be 
found all that is great in the naval life of Italy ; 
on the grand forts of the bay which received the 



64 THE IRON PIRATE. 

ashes of Stoelley are her finest guns ; on the 
glorious hills which arise above her limpid blue 
waters are her chief fortifications. There, at the 
feet of the hills where grows the olive, and where 
the vine matures to luxurious growth, you will 
find in juxtaposition with Nature's emblems of 
peace the storehouses of the shot and shell which 
one day shall sow the sea and the land with blood. 
Amongst these fortifications, amidst these adaman- 
tine terraces and turrets, my work lay ; but the 
most part of it was done in the dockyards, both in 
the yards which were the property of the Govern- 
ment and in the private yards. My recreation was 
a rare cruise to the lovely gulfs which the bay 
embosoms, to the Casa di Mare, to Fezzano, to the 
Temple of Venus at the Porto Venere ; or a walk 
when there was golden-red light on the clustering 
vines, and the Apennines were capped with the 
spreading fire which falls on them when the sun 
passes low at twilight. Many an hour I stood 
above the old town, asking why a common cheat 
of a spy, as I reckoned myself, should presume to 
find other thoughts when breathing that air laden 
of solitude ; but they came to me whether I would 
or no ; and it was often on my mind to throw over 
the whole business of prying ; and to set out on a 
work which should achieve something, if only a 
little, for humanity. That I did not follow this 
impulse, which grew upon me from day to day, is to 
be laid to the charge of one of those very walks 



THE IRON PIRATE. 6q 

upon the hillside about which I have been telling 
you. It \vas an evening late in the year, and the 
sun was just setting. I watched the changing hues 
of the peaks as the light spread from point to point ; 
watched it reddening the sea, and leaving it black 
in the shadows ; watched it upon the church 
spires of Spezia, upon the castle roof, upon the 
steel hulls of great ships. And then I saw a 
strange thing, for amongst all the vessels which were 
so burnished by the invisible hand of Heaven, I saw 
one that stood out beyond them all, a great globe, 
not of silver, but of golden fire. There was no 
doubt about it at all ; I rubbed my eyes, I used 
the glass I always carried with me ; I viewed the 
hull I saw lying there from half-a-dozen heights, 
and I was sure that what I saw was no effect of 
evening light or strange refraction. The ship I 
looked on was built either of brass, or of some alloy 
of brass, as it seemed to me, for the notion that 
she could be plated with gold was preposterous ; 
and yet the more I examined her, the more clearly 
did I make out that her hull was constructed of a 
metal infinitely gold-like, and of so beautiful a 
colour in the reddened stream which shone upon 
it that the whole ship had the aspect of a mirror 
of the purest gold I had ever seen. 

*' The sudden fading of the light behind the 

hills shut the vision I could not call it less from 

my eyes. The dark fell, and the vines rustled with 

the cold coming of night. I returned to the town 

c* 



66 THE IRON PIRATE. 

quickly, and neglecting any thought of dinner, I 
went straight to the sea-front and began, if I could, 
to find where the water lay wherein this extra- 
ordinary steamer was docked. I had taken the 
bearings of it from the hills, and I was very quickly 
at that spot where I thought to have seen the 
strange vessel. There, truly enough, was a dock 
in which two small coasting steamers were moored, 
but of a sign of that which I sought there was 
none. I should have had the matter out there 
and then, searching the place to its extremity ; 
but I had not been at my work ten minutes 
when I knew that I was watched. A man, dressed 
as a rough sailor, and remarkable for the hideous- 
ness of his face and a curious malformation of one 
tooth, lurked behind the heaps of sea lumber, and 
followed me from point to point. I did not care 
to have any altercation, so I left the matter there ; 
but, being determined to probe the mystery to 
the very bottom, I returned in a good disguise of a 
common English seaman on the following evening, 
and again entered the dockyard. The same man 
was watching, but he had no suspicion of me. 

" ' Any job going ? ' I asked, and the question 
seemed to interest him. 

" ' I reckon that depends on the man,' he re- 
plied, sticking his hands deep into his pockets, 
and squirting his filthy tobacco all over the timber 
about. ' What's a little wizen chap like } r ou good 
for, except to get yer neck broken ? ' 



THE IRON PIRATE. 67 

" ' All in my line,' I answered jauntily, having 
fixed my plan ; ' I'm starving amongst these cursed 
cut-throats here, and I'm ready for anything.' 

" ' Starving, are you ! Then blarm me if you 
shan't earn your supper. D'y'see that four feet of 
bullock's fat and nigger working at them iron pins 
in the far corner ? ' he pointed to a thick-set, dark 
and burly seaman working in the way he had de- 
scribed ' go and stick yer knife in him, and I'm 
good for a bottle two, if you like, you darned 
little shootin' rat of a man ' ; and he clutched me 
with his great paw and shook me until my teeth 
chattered again. But his look was full of meaning, 
and I believe that he wished every word that he 
said. 

" ' Stick your knife into the man yourself,' I 
replied, when I was free of him, ' you great Yankee 
lubber for another word I'd give you a taste of 
mine now.' 

u He looked at me as I stood making this poor 
mock of a threat, and laughed till he rang up the 
hill-sides. Then he said 

u ' You're my sort ; I reckon I know your flag. 
Out with it, and we'll pour liquor on it, I guess ; 
for there ain't no foolin' you no, by thunder ! 
You're just a daisy of a man, you are ; so come 
along and let the nigger be. As for hurtin' of 'im 
why, so help me blazes, he's my pard, he is, and 
I love him like my own little brother what died of 
lead-poisonin' down Sint Louis way. You come 



68 THE IRON PIRATE. 

along, you little cuss, and see if I don't make you 
dance oh, I reckon ! ' 

" I take these words from my note-book, and 
write them out for you, to give you some idea of 
the class of man I met with first on this adventure. 
More of his nice language I do not intend to trouble 
you with ; but will say that I drank with him, and 
later on with his companions, about as fine a dozen 
of self-stamped rascals as ever I wish to see. Next 
day, I came again to the dockyard, for the conver- 
sation of the previous evening had convinced me 
beyond doubt that I was at the foot of a mystery, 
and, to my delight, I got employment from the chief 
of the gang, named ; Roaring John ' by his friends ; 
and was soon at work on the simple and matter-of- 
fact business of cutting planks. This gave me an 
entry to the dockyard all I wished at the 
moment. 

" Now, you may ask, ' Why did you take the 
trouble to do all this from the mere motive of curi- 
osity engendered by the strange ship you thought 
you saw from the hills ? ' I will tell you briefly. The 
fact of my being watched when I entered the dock 
convinced me that there was something there which 
no stranger might see. That which no stranger 
may see in a foreign yard spells ajso the word 
money. If there was any information to be got in 
that dock, I could sell it to my own Government, 
or to the first Government in Europe I chose to 
haggle with. This reason alone made me a hc\vcr 



THE IRON PIRATE. 69 

of wood amongst foul-mouthed companions, a tar- 
bedaubed loafer in a crew of loafers. 

" You see me, then, at the stage when I had 
got admission to the dock, but had learnt nothing 
of the vessel. It is true that I was admitted only 
to the outer basin, where the coasting steamers 
lay, and that the man ' Roaring John ' threatened 
me with all the curses he could command if I 
passed the gate which opened into the dock be- 
yond ; but such threats to a man whose business 
it was to lay bare mystery had no more effect on 
me than the braying of an ass in a field of clover. 
Minute by minute and hour by hour, I waited 
my opportunity. It came to me on the morning 
of the eighth day, when, in the poor hope of 
getting something by the loss of sleep, I reached 
the yard at four o'clock ; and the gate being un 
open, I lurked in hiding until the first man should 
come. He was no other than the one who had 
engaged me ; and when he had gone in, about 
five minutes after I had come, he did not close 
the second door after him, there being no men 
then at their work. I need not tell you that I 
used my eyes well in those minutes, and while he 
was away this was no more than a quarter of an 
hour I had seen all I wished to see. There, sure 
enough, lay the most remarkable warship I had ever 
beheld a great, well-armed cruiser, whose decks 
were bright with quick-firing guns, whose lines 
showed novelty in every inch of them. Moie 



70 THE IRON PIRATE. 

remarkable than anything, however, was the con- 
firmation of that which I had seen from the hills. 
The ship, seemingly, was built of the purest gold. 
This, of course, I knew could not be ; but as the 
sun got up and his light fell on the vessel, I thought 
that I had never seen a more glorious sight. She 
shone with the refulgent beauty of a thousand 
mirrors ; every foot of her deck, of her 
turrets, of her upper house made a sheen of daz- 
zling fire ; the points of her decklights were as 
beacons, all lurid and a-gold. So marvellous, truly, 
was her aspect, that I forgot all else but it, and 
stood entranced, marvelling, forgetful of myself and 
purpose. The flash of a knife in the air and a 
fearful oath brought me to my senses to know that 
I was in the grasp of the man l Roaring John.' 

" ' Curse you for a small-eyed cheat ! what are 
you doing here ? ' he asked, shaking me and threat- 
ening every minute to let me feel his steel ; ' what 
are you doing here, you little cat of a man ? Spit 
it out, or I'm darned if I don't spit you ; oh, I 
guess ! ' 

" I should have made some answer in the rough 
voice I always put on in this undertaking, but a bad 
mishap befel me. The best of my disguise was the 
thick, bushy black hair I wore about my face. As 
the ruffian went to take a firmer hold of my collar, he 
pulled aside a portion of my beard, and left my chin 
clean-shaven beneath as naturally it was. The 
intense surprise of this discovery seemed to hit him 



THE IRON PIRATE. 71 

like a blow. He stepped back with a murderous 
look in his eyes a look which meant that, if I 
stayed there to deal with him alone, I had not 
another minute to live. But I cheated him again, 
and, turning on my heel, I fled with all the speed 
I possessed, and got into the street with twenty 
ruffians at my heels, and a hue and cry such as I 
hope never to hear again. 

u The escape was clever, but I reached my hotel 
and sat down to find expressions equal in power to 
my folly. The thought that I, who was a vulgar 
spy by profession, had committed a mistake worthy 
of a novelist's policeman, was gall and wormwood to 
me. Yet I was sure that I had cut off all hope of 
returning to the yard ; and what information I was 
to get must come by other modes. The nature of 
these I knew not, but I was determined to set out 
upon a visit to Signer Vezzia, who was the builder 
to whom the docks wherein I worked belonged. To 
him I came as the pretended agent of a shipping 
firm in New York, with whom I had some little 
acquaintance, and he gave me audience readily. He 
was very willing to hear me when he learnt that I 
was in quest of a builder to la)" down steamers for 
the American trade with Italy ; and some while we 
passed in great cordiality, so ripe on his part that I 
ventured the other business. 

u ' By-the-by, Signer Vezzia, that's a marvellous 
battleship you have in your second dock ; I have 
never seen anything like her before.' 



72 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" I spoke the words, and read him as one 
reads a barometer. He shrank visibly into his 
bulb, and the tone of his conversation marked a 
storm. I heard him mutter ' Diavolo ! ' under 
his breath, and then the mercury of his conver- 
sation mounted quickly. 

" ' Yes, yes ; a curious vessel, quite a special 
thing, for a South American Republic, an idea 
of theirs but you will extend me the favour 
of your pardon, I am busy ' and in his excite- 
ment he put his spectacles off and on, and called 
' Giovanni, Giovanni ! ' to his head clerk, who 
made business to be rid of me. Clearly, as a 
piece in the game I was playing, Signer Yezzia 
had made his solitary move. He was no more 
upon my board, miserably void as it was, and 
in despair I mounted to my hill-top again ; 
and spent the morning where the vines grew, 
looking down upon the golden ship which was 
built for a ' South American Republic.' That 
tale I never believed, for the man's face marked 
it as a lie as he gave it to me ; but the mere 
telling of it added piquancy to the dish I had 
tasted of, and I resolved in that hour to devote 
myself heart and soul to the work of unravelling 
the slender threads, even if I lost my common 
employment in the business. The reverie held 
me long. I was roused from it by the sight of a dull 
vapour mounting from the funnel of the nameless 
ship. She was going to sail then at the next 



THE IRON PIRATE. 73 

tide she might leave Spezia, and there would be 
no more hope. I threw a word at my dreaming, 
and hurried from the vines to my hotel in the 
town below. 

" Now you may form opinion that my pros- 
pects in this abstruse and perplexing chase were 
not at that time much to vaunt. My theories 
and my acts had led me into a mental cul-dc-sac, 
a blind alley, where, in lack of exit, I took hold 
of every straw that the wind of thought set flying. 
Here was the problem at this stage as it then ap- 
peared to me : Item (i) : A ship built of some 
metal I had no knowledge of. Item (2) : A ship 
that shone like a rich sunset on a garden lake. 
Item (3) : A ship that was armed to the full, 
as a casual glance told me, with every kind of 
quick-firing guns, and with two ten-inch guns 
in her turret. Item (4) : A ruffianly blackguard, 
to whom the cutting of a throat seemed meat 
and drink, with ten other rogues no less deserv- 
ing, from a murderous point of view, put to watch 
about the ship that no strange eye might look 
upon her. Item (5) : The confusion of Signor 
Vezzia, who made a fine tale and said at the 
same time with his eyes 'This is a lie, and a 
bad one ; I'm sorry that I have nothing better 
ready.' Item (6) : My own adamantine conviction 
that I stood near by some mystery, which was 
about to be a big mystery, and which would 
pay me to pursue. 'A fine bundle of nonsense,' 



74 THE IRON PIRATE. 

I hear you say ; ' as silly a flight of a vaporous 
brain as ever man conceived ' but stay your 
words awhile ; remember that one who is bred 
up at the keyhole lets himself, if he be wise, 
be moved by his impulses, and first opinions. 
He does not quit them until he knows them 
to be false. Instinct told me to go on in this 
work, if I lost all other, if I starved, if I drowned, 
if I died at it. And to go on I meant. 

" This was my musing at the Albergo, and 
when it was over I laughed aloud at its quix- 
otic folly. ' Oh, poor fool,' I said, ' miserable, 
brain-blinded, groping fool, to talk of going on 
when the ship sails this night, this very night ; 
and unless you put agents on in every part of 
the globe, you will never hear of her again. 
What a fine piece of dreamer's wit is yours ! 
what a bar-parlour yarn to tell rustics in 
Somerset ! Get up, and mind your own business, 
go on with your common labour, and let the 
ship and her crew go to the devil if they like.' 
For the matter of that, this advice perforce I 
had to follow, for I did not possess one single 
clue at that moment ; and although I racked 
my brains for one all the afternoon, and went 
often to the hill-top to see if the nameless ship 
yet lay in the dock, I could pick up no new 
thread, nor light upon any infinitesimal vein of 
material. The very want of a point d'appui irri- 
tated a brain already excited to a fine condition 



THE IRON PIRATE. 75 

of unrest. Any hour the ship might sail ; any 
hour something which would give me the name 
of her owner might come to me but the hours 
went on and nothing came. I dined, and was 
no step advanced ; I smoked cigars in three 
cafes, and was again at the beginning ; I visited 
half-a-dozen folk I knew, and drew no word to 
help me. At last, mocking the whole mystery 
with a fine English phrase, I said, ' Let her go ' ; 
and I returned to the Albergo and to bed. I 
had hunted a marine covert for two days and 
had drawn blank. 

" I have said that I went to bed, but it 
was a poor folly of a process, you do not doubt. 
I lay down, indeed, and read Poe's tales, which 
I love, an hour or more ; then I went over the 
whole business again, raised every point ; made 
rny brain aflame with speculation ; put out the 
candle ; lit it again ; read more mystery ; held out 
the hand to sleep ; told sleep I did not want 
her. You who know me will know also how 
useless are such gamings of man with Nature. 
I could not have slept if a king's ransom went 
with the sleeping ; and so I lay fretful, blame- 
ful, scolding myself, condoling with myself, vow- 
ing the whole problem a plague and a cheat. 
This idle wandering might have lasted until 
dawn, had it not been for my neighbour in 
the room to my left, who began to talk with 
a low buzz as of a night-insect humming in a 



76 THE IRON PIRATE. 

bed-curtain. The surging of the voice amused 
me ; I lay quite still and listened to it. 
Now it rose loud I gleaned a word, and was 
pleased ; now it fell and I fretted ; but anon 
another voice was added to the first, and, if 
the one had pleased me, the second thrilled 
me. It was the voice of my friend who wished 
to stab me at the dock. 

" Two words spoken by this man brought me 
to my feet ; two more to the thin wooden door 
which divided our rooms, as oft you'll find them 
divided in cafes through Italy. With feverish 
impatience, I knelt to pry through the keyhole ; 
and muttered a big oath when I saw that it 
was stuffed with paper, and that the sight of 
the two men was hidden from me. But I 
listened with an ear long trained to listening, 
and, although the men spoke so that few words 
reached me, I remained a whole hour upon my 
knees, amazed that the man should thus be 
sent by Providence to my very hotel ; excited 
with the new sensation of a foot upon the 
trail. The ship had not sailed, then, for here 
was the ruffian, who watched her, wasting rest 
in the first hours to hold a parley ; and if a 
parley, with whom ? Why, with those who paid 
him for the work, I did not doubt. 

" At the end of an hour the voices ceased, 
but there was still a movement in the room. 
That was hushed too ; and I judged that my 



THE IRON PIRATE. 77 

neighbour had gone to bed. For myself I had 
one of two courses before me : either to court 
sleep and wait luck with the sun, or to see 
there and then what was in the room, and by 
whom it was occupied. You ask, How was 
that possible ? but you forget my scurvy trade 
again. In my bag were forbidden implements 
sufficient to stock Clerkenwell. I took from that 
a brace and bit, and an oiled saw. In ten 
minutes I cut a hole in the partition and put 
my eye to it, waiting first to see if any man 
moved. For the moment my heart quaked 
as I thought that both the fellows had gone, 
but one look reassured me. A burly, black- 
bearded man sat in a reverie before a dressing- 
table, and I saw that there was spread upon 
the table a great heap of jewels which, at the 
lowest valuation, must have been worth a hun- 
dred thousand pounds. And beside the jewels 
was a big bull-dog revolver, close to the man's 
hand. 

" The tension of the strange situation lasted 
for some minutes. I had no clear vision through 
my spy-hole, and knew not at the first watching 
whether the man I saw was asleep or awake. A 
finer inspection of him, made with a catlike 
poise as I knelt crouching at the door, showed 
me that he slept : had fallen to sleep with his 
fingers amongst the jewels a great rough dog 
of a man clutching wealth in his dreaming. And 



78 THE IRON PIRATE. 

he was, then, one of those connected with the 
golden ship in the harbour the strange ship 
manned by cut-throats, and built for a ' South 
American Republic.' Indeed did the mystery 
deepen, the problem became more profound, 
every moment that I worked upon it. Who 
was this man ? I asked, and why did he sit in 
an Italian hotel fingering jewels, and giving a 
meeting-place at midnight to a common murderer 
from a dockyard ? Were the jewels his own ? 
Had he stolen them ? Suggestions and queries 
poured upon me ; I felt that, whatever it might 
be, I would know the truth ; and I resolved to 
dare beyond my custom, and to learn more of 
the bearded man and of his gems. 

" Watch me, then; as I knelt for a whole 
hour at the place of observation, and waited for 
the fellow to awake. It must have been well 
on towards morning when he stirred in his 
chair, and then sat bolt upright. I thought he 
looked to have some tremor of nervousness 
upon him ; clutching hastily at the jewels to put 
them in a great leather case, which again he 
shut in a large iron box, locking both, and plac- 
ing the key under his pillow. After that he 
threw off his clothes with some impatience, and, 
leaving the lamp which burned upon his dress- 
ing-table, he dropped upon his bed. For myself 
my plan was already contrived ; I had deter- 
mined to go to great risk, and to enter the room 



THE IRON PIRATE. 79 

playing the common cheat again, yet more than the 
common cheat, for that was an enterprise which 
needed all the fine caution and daring which long 
years of police work had taught me. I had not 
only to ape the housebreaker, but also to get 
the good cunning of a jewel robber and yet I 
knew that the things I had seen warranted me, 
from my point of view, in do ng what I did, and 
that desperate means alone were fit to cope with 
the situation. 

" Now the new work was quick. Being 
assured that my man slept, I put back with some 
cold glue, which was always in my tool chest, 
the piece I had cut from the door, and then 
picked the lock with one grip of my small 
pincers. My revolver I carried in the belt at 
my waist, for my hands were occupied with a 
soft cloth and a bottle of chloroform. I had 
big felt slippers upon my feet ; and went straight 
to his bed, where I let him breathe the druer 

O 

for a few moments, and deepened his light 
sleep until it became heavy unconsciousness. In 
this state I did what I would with him, and, 
having no fear of his awaking, I got at his keys 
and his jewels, and saw what I wished. There, 
true enough, were precious stones of all values : 
Brazilian diamonds, Cape stones tinged with 
yellow, yet big and valuable, the finer class of 
Indian turquoise, pink pearls, black pearls all 
these loosely wrapped in tissue paper ; but a 



8o THE IRON PIRATE. 

magnificent parcel such as you would see only 
in a West End house in London. I must 
confess, however, that these stones interested me 
but little, for as I delved amongst his treasures 
I brought up at last a necklace of opals and 
diamonds, the first set gems I had discovered ; 
and as I held them to the lamp and ex- 
amined the curious grouping of the stones, and 
the strange Eastern form of the clasp, I knew 
that I had seen the bundle before. The con- 
viction was instantaneous, powerful, convincing ; 
yet even with my aptitude for recalling names, 
places, and things, I could not in my mind 
place those jewels. None the less was I assured 
that the one solid clue I had yet taken hold 
of was in my keeping ; and, as a quick glance 
round the chamber told me no more, I put up the 
baubles in their case again, replaced the key, 
and quitted the chamber. Do not think, how- 
ever, that I had neglected to mark my man ; 
every line of his face was written in my mental 
notebook, every peculiarity of head and counten- 
ance, the shape of his arms, above all, the mould 
of the hands, that wonderful index to recogni- 
tion ; and henceforth I knew that I could pick 
him from a hundred thousand. 

" When I had done with this business, I lay 
upon my bed, and brought the whole of my recol- 
lection back upon the jewels. Where had I seen 
them ; in what circumstances ; in whose hands ? 



THE IRON PIRATE. 81 

Again and again I travelled old ground, exhumed 
buried cases, dwelt upon names of forgotten crimi- 
nals, and of big world people. An hour's intense 
mental concentration told me nothing ; the dark 
of the hour before dawn gave way to the cold break- 
ing of morning light, and yet I tossed in an agony 
of blank and futile reasoning. I must have slept 
from the sheer blinding of the brain somewhere 
about that hour ; and in my dreaming I got what 
wakefulness had denied to me. There in my sleep 
was the whole history of the stones written for me. 
I remembered the Liverpool landing-stage ; the 
departure of the Star liner, City of St. Petersburg^ 
for New York ; the arrest of the notorious jewel- 
thief. Carl Reichsmann ; the discovery of the opal 
and diamond necklace upon him ; the restoration 
of it to to the brain failed for a moment then 
with a loud cry of delight, which roused me, I 
pronounced the words ; to Lady Hardon, of 2O2A, 
Berkeley Square, London. 

u It is a ridiculous situation to sit up in bed 
asking yourself if your dream be reality, or your 
reality be a dream ; but when I awoke with that 
name on my lips, the joy of the thing was so sur- 
passing that I repeated the name again and again, 
muttering it as I got into my clothes, using it all 
the time I washed, and speaking it aloud when I 
stood before the glass to tie my cravat. Here, I 
suppose the folly of the whole repetition dawned 
upon me, for, of a sudden, I shut my lips firm and 



82 THE IRON PIRATE. 

close, and bethought me of the man in the next 
room. What of him ? Was he still there ? I 
listened. There was no sound, not so much as of a 
heavy sleeper. He had gone then, and had Lady 
Hardon's jewels yet Lady Hardon, Lady Har- 

don nay, but you could never know the sudden 

and awful emotion of that great awakening which 
came to me in that moment when my memory 
travelled quickly on to Lady Hardon's end ; for I 
remembered then that she went down in the great 
steamer Alexandria, which was lost in the Bay of 
Biscay twelve months before I discovered the golden 
ship in the dockyard at Spezia ; and I recalled the 
fact, known world- wide, that her famous jewels, this 
necklace amongst them, had gone with her to her 
end. Lost, I say ; yet that was the account at 
Lloyd's ; lost with never a soul to give a word about 
her agony ; lost hopelessly in the broad of the bay. 
How came it, then, that this man who knew the 
ruffians in the dockyard below ; who seemed a 
common fellow, yet possessed a hundred thousand 
pounds' worth of jewellery, how came it that he had 
got that which the world thought to be lying on 
the sands of the bay ? You say, ' Pshaw, it was not 
the same bauble ' ; that .is the obvious answer to 
my theorising, but in the recognition of historic 
gems a man trained as I was never makes an error. 
I would have staked my life that the jewels were 
those supposed to be under the sea ; and, moved to 
a state of deep excitement, I left my hotel without 



THE IRON PIRATE. 83 

breakfast, and mounted to the hill-top for tidings of 
the great vessel. 

u But she had sailed, and the dock which had 
held her was empty. 

" This discovery did not daunt me, for I had 
expected it. I should have been surprised if she 
had been at her berth ; and the fact that she had 
weighed under cover of night fell in so well with 
my anticipation that 1 waited only to ascertain 
officially what ships had left Spezia during the past 
twenty-four hours. They told me at the Customs 
that the Brazilian war-vessel built by Signer Vezzia 
weighed at three a.m. ; but more I could not learn, 
for these men had evidently been well bribed, and 
were as dumb as unfee'd lawyers. I knew that 
their information was not worth a groat, and hurried 
back to the Albergo to assure myself that my neigh- 
bour with the necklace had sailed also. To my 
surprise, he was at breakfast when I arrived at the 
hotel ; and so one great link in my theoretic chain 
snapped at the first test. As he had not sailed with 
the others, he could have no direct connection with 
the nameless ship, no nautical part or lot with her. 
But what was he, then ? That I meant to know as 
soon as opportunity should serve. 

***** 

" I have led you up, Strong, step by step, through 
the details of this work to this point, that you may 
have the facts unalloyed as I have them ; and may 
construct your history from this preamble as I have 



84 THE IRON PIRATE. 

* 

constructed mine. I am now about to move ovei 
the ground more quickly. I will quit Spezia, and 
ask you to come with me, after the interval of nigh 
a year during which no man had known that 
which I now tell you to London, where, in an 
hotel in Cecil Street, Strand, I was again the neigh- 
bour of the man with the jewels whom I had taken 
so daring an advantage of in Italy. Let me tell you 
briefly what had happened in the between-time. 
The day on which the nameless ship left the dock, 
this man whom, I may say at once, I have always 
met under the name of Captain Black quitted the 
town and reached Paris. Thither I followed him, 
staying one day in the French capital, but going 
onward with him on the following morning to 
Cherbourg. There he went aboard a small yacht, 
and I lost him in the Channel. I returned at once 
to Italy, and wired to friends in the police force at 
New York, at London, and San Francisco, and at 
three ports in South America for news (a) of a new 
war-ship lately completed at Spezia for the Brazilian 
republic ; (b) of a man known as Captain Black, who 
left the port of Cherbourg in the cutter-yacht La 
France on the morning of October 3oth. For nearly 
twelve months I waited for an answer to these 
questions ; but none came to me. To the best of 
my knowledge, the nameless war-ship was never 
seen upon the high seas. I began to ask myself, if 
she existed, how came it that a vessel, burnished to 
the beauty of gold, had been spoken of none, seen 



THE IRON PIRATE. 85 

of none, reported in no harbour, mentioned in no 
despatch ? Yet she remained known but to her 
crew and to me ; and my study of shipping lists, 
gazettes, and papers in all tongues, never gave me 
clue to her. Only this, I had such a record of navi- 
gation as I think man never kept yet before ; and I 
marked it as curious, if nothing more, that in the 
month when the cruiser quitted Spezia three ocean- 
going steamers, each carrying specie to the value of 
more than one hundred thousand pounds, went 
down in fair weather, and were paid for at Lloyd's. 
What folly ! you say again ; what are you going 
to conclude ? I answer only God grant that I 
conclude falsely that this terrible thing I suspect 
is the phantom of a too-keen imagination. 

" Now, when no tidings came, either of the ship 
sought or of the man Black, I did not lose all 
hope. Indeed, I was much occupied making 
during a month's leisure in London a list, as far as 
that were possible, of all the gems and baubles which 
the dead men and women on the sunken steamers 
had owned. This was a paltry record of bracelets, 
and rings, and tiaras, and clasps, such stuff as any 
fellow of a jeweller may sell ; unconvincing stuff, 
worth no more than a near relation for purposes ot 
evidence. There was but one piece of the whole 
mass that did not come in my category a great box 
with a fine painting by Jean Petitot upon its lid, and 
a curious circle of jasper all about the miniatures. 
This was a historic piece of bijouterie mentioned 



86 THE IRON PIRATE. 

as having once been the property of Necker, 
the French financier ; then lost by a New York 
dealer, who was taking it from Paris to Boston in 
the steamship Catalania ; the ship supposed to 
have foundered, with the loss of all hands, off the 
Banks of Newfoundland, sixteen days after the 
nameless ship left Spezia. I made a record of this 
trifle, and forgot it until, many months later, a 
private communication from the head of the New 
York Secret Service told me that the man I wanted 
was in London ; that he was an American million- 
aire, who owned a house on the banks of the Hudson 
River ; who had great influence in man}'' cities, who 
came to Europe to buy precious stones and miniature 
paintings, a man who was considered eccentric by 
his friends. I kept the notes, and hurried to 
England for I had been to Geneva some while 
and took rooms in the hotel -where Captain Black 
was staying. Three days after I was disguised as 
you have seen me, selling him miniatures. Within 
a week, by what steps I need not pause to say, I knew 
that the jasper box, lost, by report, in the steamer 
Catalania, was under lock and key in his bedroom. 
" I cannot tell you how that discovery agitated 
me. Here, indeed, was my second direct link. 
The man had in his possession an historic and 
unmistakable casket, which all the world believed 
to be lost in a steamer from which no soul had 
escaped. How I treasured that knowledge ! Three 
months the man remained in London ; during 



THE IRON PIRATE. 87 

three months he was not thirty hours out of my 
sight or knowledge. Day by day when with him, 
I consulted such shipping information as I could 
get ; and scored another mark upon my record 
when I made sure that no inexplicable story from 
the sea was written while he remained ashore. 
This was perplexing for a surety. I could not in 
any way connect the man with the nameless ship, 
and yet he knew her crew ; he was the one in 
whose possession the jewels were ; above all, while 
he was ashore there were no disasters which could 
not be set down to ocean peril or the act of God, as 
the policies say. This further knowledge held me 
to him with the magnetic attraction of a mystery 
such as I have never known in my life. I resigned 
my work for the Government ; and henceforth 
gave myself heart and soul to the pursuit of the 
man. I followed him to Paris, to St. Petersburg ; 
I tracked him through France to Marseilles ; I 
watched him embark, with three of the ruffians 
I had seen at Spezia, in his yacht again ; and 
within a month the yacht was in harbour at Cowes 
without him ; while a steamer, bound from the 
Cape to Cadiz, and known to have specie aboard 
her, went out of knowledge as the others had done. 
Then was I sure, sure of that awful dream I had 
dreamed, conscious that I alone shared with that 
man and his crew one of the most ghastly secrets 
that the deep has kept within her. 

" The end of my story I judge now that you 



88 THE IRON PIRATE. 

anticipate. Though absolutely convinced myself, I 
had still lack of the one direct link tc make a legal 
chain. I had positively to connect the man Black 
with the nameless ship, for this I had only done so 
far by pure circumstance. For many months I have 
made no gain in this attempt. Last year in Liver- 
pool I sketched in yet another point in my picture. 
I received tidings of the man in that city, and there 
I did trade with him in my old disguise ; but he 
was not alone the crew of ruffians you have known 
by this time kept company with him in that bold 
and bestial Bohemianism you will have witnessed 
with me. I kept vigil there a week, but lost him 
at the end of that time. When he reappeared in 
the circles of civilisation it was in Paris, but two 
days ago, when I asked you to accompany me. 
You know that I attempted to sail with him on his 
cruise, and your instinct tells you why. If I could, 
by being two days afloat in his company, prove 
beyond doubt that he used his yacht as a pretence ; 
if I couJd prove that when he left port in her he 
sailed out to sea, and was picked up by the name- 
less ship, my chain was forged, my book complete, 
and I had but to call the Government to the work ! 
" But I have failed, and the labour I have set 
myself shall be done by others, but chiefly, Mark 
Strong, by you. From the valley of the dead 
whence soon I must look back, if it is to be on 
a life that has no achievement before God in it, 
I. who have laid down such a life as mine was 



THE IRON PIRATE. 89 

in this cause, urge you upon it. You have youth, 
and money sufficient for the enterprise ; you will 
get money in its pursuit. You have no fear of the 
black After, which is the end of life ; but, after all, 
it may come to you as it came to me, that there is 
the finger of the Almighty God pointing to your 
path of duty. I have lived the life of a common 
eavesdropper ; but believe rne that in this work 
I have felt the call of humanity, and hoped, if I 
might live to accomplish it, that the Book of the 
Good should find some place for my name. So may 
you when my mantle falls upon you. What in- 
formation I have, you have. The names of my 
friends in the cities mentioned I have written down 
for you ; they will serve you for the memory of my 
name ; but be assured at the outset that you will 
never take this man upon the sea. And as for the 
money which is rightly due to the one who rids 
humanity of this pest, I say, go to the Admiralty in 
London, and lay so much of your knowledge before 
them as shall prevent a robbery of your due ; claim 
a fit reward from them and the steamship companies ; 
and, as your beginning, go now to the Hudson 
River I meant to go within a month and learn 
there more of the man you seek ; or, if the 
time be ripe, lay hands there upon him. And 
may the spirit of a dead man breathe success 
upon you ! " 
On the yacht " Celsis" lying at Cowes, written in 

the month of Augtist^for Mark Strong. 
D 



90 THE IRON PIRATE 

When I put down the papers, my eyes were 
tear-stained with the effort of reading, and the 
cabin lamp was nigh out. My interest in the 
writing had been so sustained that I had not seen 
the march of daylight, now streaming through the 
glass above, upon my bare cabin table. But I was 
burnt up almost with a fever ; and the oppressive 
fumes from the stinking lamp seemed to choke 
me, so that I went above, and saw that we were at 
anchor in the Solent, and that the whole glory of a 
summer's dawn lit the sleeping waters. And all 
the yacht herself breathed sleep, for the others were 
below, and Dan alone paced the deck. 

The first knowledge that I had of the true effect 
of Martin Hall's narrative was the muttered ex 
clamation of this old sailor 

" Ye haven't slept, sir," said he ; " ye're just the 
colour of yon ensign ! " 

" Quite true, Dan it was close down there." 

u Gospel truth, without a hitch ! but ye're 
precious bad, sir ; I never seed a worse figger-'ed, 
excusing the liberty. I'd rest a bit, sir." 

" Good advice, Dan. I'll sleep here an hour, if 
you'll get my rug from below." 

I stretched myself on a deck-chair, and he 
covered my limbs almost with a woman's tender- 
ness, so that I slept and dreamt again of Hall, of 
Captain Black, of the man " Four-Eyes," of a great 
holocaust on the sea. I was carried away by sleep 
to far cities and among other men, to great perils of 



THE IRON PIRATE. 91 

the sea, to strange sights ; but over them all loomed 
the phantom of a golden ship, and from her decks 
great fires came. When I awoke, a doctor from 
Southsea was writing down the names of drugs 
upon paper ; and Mary was busy with ice. They 
told me I had slept for thirty hours, and that they 
had feared brain-fever. But the sleep had saved 
me ; and when Mary talked of the doctor's order 
that I was to lie resting a week, I laughed aloud. 

" You'd better prescribe that for Roderick," 
said I ; "he'd rest a month; wouldn't you, old chap?" 

" I don't know about a month, old man, but 
you mustn't try the system too much." 

" Well, I'm going to try it now, anyway, for I 
start for London to-night ! " 
' " What ! " they cried in one voice. 

" Exactly, and if Mary would not mind running 
on deck for a minute, I'll tell you why, Roderick." 

She went at the word, casting one pleading 
look with her eyes as she stood at the door, but 
I gave no sign, and she closed it. I had fixed upon 
a course, and as Roderick, dreamingly indifferent, 
prepared to talk about that which he called my 
" madness," I took Hall's manuscript, and read it 
to him. When I had finished, there was a strange 
light in his eyes. 

" Let us go at once," he said ; and that was all. 



CHAPTER VI. 

I ENGAGE A SECOND MATE. 

WE caught the first train to London ; and were at 
the Hotel Columbia by Charing Cross in time for 
dinner. Mary had insisted on her right to accom- 
pany us, and, as we could find no valid reason why 
she should not, we brought her to the hotel with 
us. Then by way of calming that trouble, excite- 
ment, and expectation which crowded on us both, 
we went to Covent Garden, where the autumn 
season of opera was then on, and listened to the 
glorious music of Orjeo and the Cavalleria. Nor 
did either of us speak again that night of Hall or 
of his death ; but I confess that the vision of it 
haunted my eyes, standing out upon all the scenes 
that were set, so that I saw it upon the canvas, and 
often before me the wind-worn struggle of a burn- 
ing ship ; while that awful " Ahoy ! " of my own 
men yet rang in my ears. 

When I returned to the hotel I wrote two 
letters, the beginning of my task. One was to the 
Admiralty, the other to the office of the Black 
Anchor Line of American Steamships. I told 
Roderick what I had done, but he laughed at the 
idea ; so that I troubled him no more with it, 



THE IRON PIRATE. 93 

awaiting its proof. On the next morning, in a few 
moments of privacy between us, he agreed to let 
me work alone for two days, and then to venture 
on suggestion himself. So it came to be that on 
the next day I found myself standing in a meagrely 
furnished anteroom at the Admiralty, and there 
waiting the pleasure of one of the clerks, who had 
been deputed to talk with me. He was a fine 
fellow, I doubt not : had much merit of his fault- 
less bow, and great worth in the nicety of his 
spotless waistcoat, but God never made one so 
dull or so preposterous a blockhead. I see him 
now, rolling up the starved hairs which struggled 
for existence upon his chin, and letting his cuffs 
lie well upon his bony wrists as he asked me, 
with a floating drawl 

u And what service can I do for you ? " 

For me ! What service could he do for me ? 
I smiled at him, and did not disguise my contempt. 

" If there is any responsible person here," I said, 
with emphasis upon the word responsible, "I should 
be glad to impart to him some very curious, and, as 
it seems to me, very remarkable, information con- 
cerning a war-ship which has just left Spezia, and 
is supposed to be the property of the Brazilian 
Government." 

" It's very good of you, don't you know," he 
replied, as he bent down to arrange his ample 
trousers ; " but I fancy we heard something about 
her last week, so we won't trouble you, don't 



94 THE IRON PIRATE. 

you know " ; and he felt to see if his bow were 
straight. 

" You may have heard something of the ship," 
I answered with warmth, " but that which I 
have to communicate is not of descriptive, but of 
national, importance. You cannot by any means 
have learnt my story, for there is only one man 
living who knows it." 

He looked up at the clock a moment as though 
seeking inspiration, but his mind was quite vacant 
when he replied 

" It's awfully good of you, don't you know ; 
we're so frightfully busy this month ; if you could 
come up in a month's time " 

" In a month's time," I said, rising with scorn, 
"in a month's time, if 'you and yours don't stand 
condemned before Europe for a parcel of fools and 
incompetents, then you'll send for me, but I'll see 
you at blazes first good-morning ! " 

I was outside the office before his exclamation 
of surprise had passed away ; and within half an 
hour I sat in the private room of the secretary to 
the Black Anchor Steamship Company. He was a 
sharp man of business, keen-visaged as a ferret, and 
restless as a nervous horse long reined in. I told 
h.'m shortly that I had reason to doubt the truth 
of the statement that a warship recently built at 
Spezia was intended for the purposes set down to 
her ; that I believed she was the property of an 
American adventurer whose motives I scarce dared 



THE IRON PIRATE. 95 

to realise ; that I had proof, amounting to convic- 
tion, that this man possessed jewels which were 
commonly accounted as lost in his firm's steamer. 
Catalania ; and that if his company would agree 
to bear the expense, and to give me suitable re- 
compense if I succeeded in supporting my con- 
jectures, I would undertake to bring him the whole 
history of the nameless ship within twelve months ; 
and also to give him such knowledge as would 
enable him to lay hands on the man called u Captain 
Black," should this man prove the criminal I be- 
lieved him to be. To all which tale he listened, 
his searching eye fixing its stare plump upon me, 
from time to time ; but when I had done, he rang 
the bell for his clerk, and I could see that he felt 
himself in the company of a maniac. So I left him, 
and breathed the breath of liberty again as I went 
back to the hotel, and told Roderick of the utter 
and crushing failure waiting upon the very begin- 
ning of the task which Martin Hall had left to 
me. 

Roderick was not at all surprised it seemed to 
me rather that he was glad. 

" What did I tell you ? " he said, as he sat up on 
the couch, and took the tube of his hookah from 
his mouth ; " who will believe such a tale as we are 
hawking in the market-place selling, in fact, to 
the highest bidder ? If a man came to you with 
the same account, and with no more authority to 
support him than the story of a dead detective 



96 THE IRON PIRATE. 

who may have lost his wits, or may never have had 
any to lose would you put down a shilling to see 
.him through with the business ? Pshaw ! my dear 
old Mark, you, with your long head and that 
horribly critical eyes of yours, you wouldn't give 
him a groat." 

" Exactly, I should consider him a dupe or a 
stark-staring madman ; but the case is different as 
it stands. I know I would stake my life on it 
that every word Martin Hall wrote is true, true 
as my life itself. I am not so sure that you are 
convinced, though." 

I awaited his answer, but it did not come for 
many minutes. He had passed through his momen- 
tary enthusiasm and lay at full length upon the 
couch, making circles, parabolas, and ellipses of fine 
white smoke, while he fixed his gaze upon the frieze 
of the wall, as if he were counting the architraves. 

" Mark," he said at last, " when we were at 
Harrow together an aged sage impressed upon us 
the meaning of Seneca's line, ' Veritas odit moras.' 
I regard myself at the moment in a position of 
truth ; but whether on calm reflection I believe the 
whole of your dead friend's story, I'm hanged if I 
know, and therefore "here he made a long pause 
and smoked violently " and therefore I have 
bought a steamer." 

" You have done what? " 

" At two o'clock to-day, in your absence, I 
bought the steam-yacht Rocket, lately the property 



THE IRON PIRATE. 97 

of Lord Wilmer, now the property of Roderick 
Stewart, of the Hotel Columbia, London." 

I think I must have laughed sorrowfully at him, 
as a man laughs at a drawing-room humorist, for 
he continued quickly 

" Before we go on board her, the yacht will be 
re-christened by Mary who will stay with her 
dear maiden aunt in our absence and will be 
named after your vessel Celsis. Her crew will 
consist of our silent friend, Captain York, of his 
brother as chief mate, and of your men now at 
Portsmouth, with half a dozen more. We shall 
need eight firemen, whom the agents will engage, 
and three engineers, already found, for I have taken 
on Lord Wilmer's men. Your cook, old ' Cuss-a- 
lot,' will serve us very well during the fourteen or 
fifteen days we shall need to go across the Atlantic, 
and we want now only a second and third officer. 
As these men will be mixed up with us on the 
quarter-deck, I have told the agents to send them 
up to see you here so you'll run your eye over 
them and tell me if they'll do. I hate seeing 
people ; they bore me, and I mean you to take 
the charge of this enterprise from the very begin- 
ning you quite understand ? " 

"Roderick, my old friend, I'm as blank as a 
drawing-board would you mind giving me that 
yarn from the beginning again and tell me first, 
why are we going ; then, where are we going ; and 
after that, what has your steamer to do with the 



98 THE IRON PIRATE. 

business of Martin Hall and, well, and what we 
know ? " 

He spoke quickly in answer, and seemed dis- 
appointed. 

" I hate palaver," he said, " and didn't think to 
find you dense, but you're growing silly at this 
business anyway. Now, look here ; until you read 
me that paper in your cabin, I don't know that I 
ever felt anger against any man, but, before God, 
I'M bring the man who murdered Martin Hall, and 
Heaven knows how many others, to justice or I'll 
never know another hour's rest. You have been 
talking of Governments and ship-owners for twenty- 
four hours ; but what have Governments and ship- 
owners to do with us ? Is it money you want ? 
Well, what's mine is yours ; and I'm worth two 
hundred and fifty thousand pounds if I'm worth a 
shilling. Is it profit of a dead man's work you're 
after ? Well then, mark your man, learn all about 
him, run him to his hole ; and then, when other 
people besides yourself know his story, as it must 
be known in a few months' time, put your price on 
what is your own, and don't fear to recompense 
yourself. What I want you to see is this : For 
some months, at any rate, we shall get no outside 
help in this matter from any living creature ; what 
we're going to do must be done at our cost, which 
is my cost. And what we're going to do isn't to 
be done at this hotel, or on this couch, or in the 
City : it's going to be done on the high seas, and 



THE IRON PIRATE. 99 

after that in America on the Hudson River, where, 
if Hall be right, is the home of Captain Black. It 
is to the Hudson River that I mean to go now at 
once, as soon as money and the devil's own number 
of men can get the steam-yacht Celsis ready for sea. 
And at my cost, don't forget that ; though I'm a 
fool in the game, which is yours to make and yours 
to play, as it has been from the beginning, when 
the dead man chose you to finish it and to reckon 
with the scoundrels now afloat somewhere between 
here and the Banks. In his name I ask you now 
to close your hand with me on this bargain, to ask 
no question, to make no protests, and to remember 
that we sail in three days, if possible, and if not in 
three, then, in as small a number as will serve to 
get the steamer ready." 

What could I say to a story such as this one ? I 
could only wring his hand, and feel how hot it was, 
knowing that the same haunting wish to be up and 
off in pursuit was about him as about me. For 
half-an-hour we sat and smoked together. In three- 
quarters I was closeted in the room below with 
Francis Paolo, who had come from the agents to 
seek the berth of second officer to the new yacht 
Celsis. When the servant gave me this man's 
name, I had some misgiving at its Italian sound, 
but I remembered that Italy is breeding a nation of 
sailors ; and I put off the prejudice and hurried 
down to see him. I found him to be a sprightly, 
dark-faced, black-haired Italian, apparently no more 



ioo THE IRON PIRATE. 

than twenty-five years old ; and he greeted me 
with much smoothness of speech. He had served 
three years as third officer to the big steam-yacht 
owned by the noted Frenchman, the Marquis de 
Cluneville ; and, as he was unmistakably a gentle- 
man, and his discharges were in perfect order, 
I engaged him there and then for the post of 
second officer to the Celsi's, and gave him orders 
to join her at Plymouth, where she lay, as soon 
as might be. 

But had I known him then as I know him now, 
I would have paid a thousand pounds never tc 
have seen him ! 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT PURSUIT. 

IT was our last day in London. Roderick and I 
sat down to dinner in the hotel, the touch of de- 
pression upon us both. Mary had left us early in 
the morning to go to Salisbury, where her kinsfolk 
lived, and I confess that her readiness to quit us 
without protest somewhat hurt me. I imagine that 
I was thinking of it, for I blurted out at last, when 
we had been silent for at least a quarter of an 
hour 

u I suppose she's arrived by this." 

"No, I didn't post her till three," Roderick 
replied in equal reflective mood. 

u Didn't post who ? " I asked indignantly. 

" Why, old Belle, of course. I sent her down 
with the guard to get her out of the way." 

u Oh," I replied, " I was thinking of Mary, not 
of your dog." 

" You always are," he said ; " but, between our- 
selves, I'm glad she went. I thought there'd be a 
fuss ; and if it comes to a row, as it most probably 
will, girls are in the way. Don't you think so ? 
But, of course, you don't." 

I didn't, and made no bones of pretence about 
it. Mary was a child ; there was no doubt about 



102 THE IRON PIRATE 

that ; but as I girded up my courage for this under- 
taking, I thought how much those pretty eyes 
would have encouraged me, and how sweet that 
childish laugh would have been in mid-Atlantic. 
But there that's no part of this story. 

We were going down to Plymouth by the nine 
o'clock mail from Paddington, and there was not a 
wealth of time to spare. So soon as we had dined, 
I went up to my room to put the small things of 
need away, meaning to be no more than five 
minutes at the work ; but, to my amazement, the 
whole of the place had been turned utterly inside 
out by one who had been there before me. My 
trunk lay upside down ; my writing-case was un- 
locked and stripped, my diary was torn and rent, 
my clothes were scattered ; I thought at first that a 
common cheat of a hotel thief had been busy snap- 
ping up trifles ; but I got a shock greater than any 
I had known since Martin Hall's death when I felt 
for his writing, which lay secure in its case, and 
found that, while the main narrative was intact, 
his letters to the police at New York, his plans, 
and his sketches had been taken. For the moment 
the discovery made me reel. I could not realise 
its import, and almost mechanically I rang for a 
servant, who sent the manager to me. 

His perplexity and dismay were no less than 
mine. 

" No one has any right to enter your rooms," 
he said ; " and I will guarantee the honesty of my 



THE IRON PIRATE. 103 

servants unhesitatingly. Let us ring and ask for 
the porter. 1 ' 

The porter was emphatic. 

" No one has been here after you since yester- 
day, sir, when the Italian gentleman came," he 
pleaded. " To day he sent a man for a parcel he 
left here, but I know of no one else who has even 
mentioned your name." 

u What is the amount of your loss ? " asked the 
manager, as he began to assist me to make things 
straight, and the question gave me inspiration. I 
made a hurried search, and I must have shown 
feeling, for I was conscious of pallor of face and 
momentary giddiness. 

u You have lost something of great value, 
then ? " he continued, as he watched. And I 
replied 

u Yes, but to myself only. Nothing has been 
taken from the room but papers, which may be 
worth ten thousand pounds to me. They are not 
worth a penny to anyone else." 

'' Oh ! papers only that is fortunate ; it is, 
perhaps, a case for your own private detective." 

" Quite so ; I shouldn't have troubled you 
had I made a search before. I will see to it 
myself many thanks." 

He withdrew with profuse apologies, but I 
remained standing, with all the heart out of me. 
What, in Heaven's name, did it mean ? Who 
had interest to rifle my portfolio and take the 



io 4 THE IRON PIRATE. 

papers ? Who could have interest ? Who but 
the man I meant to hunt down ? And what 
did he know of me what ? I asked, repeating 
the words over again, and so loudly that those 
in the neighbouring rooms must have heard 
them. 

Was I watched from the very beginning ? 
Had I to cope, at the very outset, with a man 
worth a million, the captain of a band of cut- 
throats, who stood at no devil's deed, no foul 
work, no crime, as Martin Hall's death clearly 
proved ? My heart ached at the thought ; I 
felt the sweat dropping off me ; I stood without 
thought of any man ; the one word " watched " 
singing in my ears like the surging of a great 
sea. And I had forgotten Roderick until he 
burst into my room, a great laugh on his lips, 
and a telegram in his hand ; but he stood back 
as he saw me, and went pale, as I must have 
been. 

" Great Scott ! " he said ; " what's the matter ? 
what are you doing ? We leave in ten minutes ; 
why aren't you ready ? " 

The excuse gurgled in my throat. I stam- 
mered out something, and began to pack as 
though pursued by Furies. Then I put him 
off by asking what his humour was about. He 
laughed again at the question 

"What do you think?'' he said; "Mary's 
arrived all right." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 105 

" Oh, that's good ; I hope she'll like Salis- 
bury," I replied, bundling shirts, collars, and 
coats into my trunk with indiscriminate vigour. 

" Yes, but you don't wait to hear the end," 
he continued, with a great roar of laughter ; 
"she isn't at Salisbury at all; she's at Plymouth, 
on board the Cclsis. She went straight down 
there, and devil a bit as much as sent her aunt 
a telegram ! " 

I rose up at his word, and looked him in the 
face. 

" Well," he said, " what do you think ? you 
don't seemed pleased." 

" I'm not pleased," I said, going on with my 
packing. "I don't think she ought to be there." 

" I know that ; we've talked it all over, but 
when I think of it, I don't see where the harm 
comes in ; we can't meet mischief crossing the 
Atlantic, and when the danger does begin in 
New York I'll see she's well on the lee-side of it." 

I did not answer him, for I knew that which 
he did not know. Perhaps he began to think 
that he did not do well to treat the matter 
so lightly, for he was mute when we entered 
the cab, and he did not open his lips until we 
were seated in the night mail for Plymouth. 
The compartment we rode in was reserved for 
us as he had wished ; and, truth to tell, we 
neither of us had much liking for talk as the 
train rolled smoothly westward. We had entered 



io6 THE IRON PIRATE. 

upon this undertaking, so vast, so shadowy, so 
momentous, with such haste, and moved by such 
powerful motives, that I know not if some thought 
of sorrow did not then touch us both. Who 
could say if we should live to tell the tale, if our 
fate would not be the fate of Martin Hall, if we 
should ever so much as see the nameless ship, if 
chance would ever bring us face to face with 
Captain Black ? And whither did we go ? When 
should we set foot again in that England we 
loved ? God alone could tell ; and, with one 
great hope in a guiding and all-seeing Providence, 
I covered myself up in my rug, and slept until 
dawn c.ime, and the fresh breezes from the 
Channel waves brought new strength and men's 
hearts to us again. 

It was full day when we went on board the 
yacht, and I did not fail to cast a quick glance 
of admiration on her beautiful lines and per- 
fect shape as I clambered up the ladder, at the 
top of which stood Captain York. 

" Welcome aboard," he said, giving us hearty 
hand-shakes ; and without further inspection at 
that hour we followed him to the cabin, where 
steaming coffee brought the blood to our hands 
and feet, and put us in better mood. 

"So my sister's here," said Roderick, as he 
filled his cup for the third time. 

" Yes, last night, no orders," jerked the skip- 
per with his usual brevity. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 107 

" Ah, we must see to that and the second 
officer " 

" Still ashore ; he left a bit of writing ; he'll 
be aboard midday ! " 

He had the writing in his hand, and was 
about to crumple it, but I caught sight of it, and 
snatched it from him. It was in the same hand- 
writing as the letter which Captain Black had sent 
to me at the Hotel Scribe in Paris. 

" What's the matter ? " said Roderick, as he 
heard me exclaim ; but the skipper looked hard 
at me, and was much mystified. 

" Do you know anything of the man ? " he 
asked very slowly, as he leant back in his chair, 
but I had already seen the folly of my ejacula 
tion, and I replied 

" Nothing at all, although I have seen that 
handwriting before somewhere ; I could tell you 
where, perhaps, if I thought." 

Roderick nodded his head meaningly, and 
deftly turned the subject. I yawned with a 
great yawn, and the episode passed as we both 
rose to go to our cabins. It is not well to greet 
the waking day with eyes that are half-closed in 
sleep ; and, although the skipper seemed to desire 
some fuller knowledge as to the ends of our cruise 
and the course of it, we put him off, and left him 
to the coffee and the busy work of the final 
preparation. But Roderick followed me to my 
berth and had the matter of the handwriting 



io8 THE IRON PIRATE. 

out. I told him at once of the robbery of 
some of the papers, and the coincidence of the 
letter which the second mate had left with the 
skipper. He was quick-witted enough to see the 
danger ; but he was quite reckless in the methods 
he proposed to meet it. 

" There's no two thoughts about this matter 
at all," he said ; " we've evidently run right into 
a trap, but luckily there's time to get out 
again of course, we shall sail without a second 
mate ? " 

" That's one way out of the hole, no doubt, 
but it's very serious to find that our very first 
move in the matter is known to others. Hall 
said well that his diamond-buyer could command 
and be obeyed in ten cities : and there isn't 
much question that we've got one of his men 
aboard this ship but I don't know that we 
shouldn't keep him." 

" Keep him ! What for ? to watch every- 
thing we do, and hear everything we say, and 
arrange for the cutting of our throats when 
we land at New York ? You've a fine notion 
of diplomacy, Mark ! " 

" Perhaps so ; but we won't quarrel about 
that. There's one thing you forget in this little 
calculation of yours our men are as true as 
steel ; this rogue couldn't turn one of them if 
he staked his life on it. Suppose he has come 
here to use his eyes, and hang about keyholes ; 



THE IRON PIRATE. 109 

well, we know him, fortunately ; and what can 
he learn unless he learns it from you or me ? 
There's not another soul aboard knows anything. 
You will tell the skipper that we cross to 
America for a pleasure trip ; you will help me 
to keep so close an eye on Master Francis Paolo, 
second mate, that if he lose a hair of his head 
we shall know it. In that way it may turn out 
that we shall get from him the link which is lost 
in the chain ; and when he would draw us, we 
shall pump him as dry as a sand-pit. At least, 
that's my way of thinking, and I don't think 
it's such a poor notion, after all." 

"It's not poor at all it never came to me 
like that. Of course, you're right ; let's take the 
man aboard, but I wish we could have left Mary 
behind don't you ? " 

That I did, but what could I tell him? It 
was bad enough to be hugging all those fears and 
thoughts of danger to my own heart, without 
setting him all a-ferment with apprehension and 
unrest ; so I laughed off his question, and after 
a six hours' sleep I went aft to the quarter-deck, 
to take stock of the yacht and get some better 
acquaintance with her. 

She was a finely-built ship of some seven 
hundred tons, and was schooner-rigged, so that 
she could either sail or steam. Her engines were 
unusually large for so small a vessel, being triple- 
compound ; while the main saloon, aft, and the 



no THE IRON PIRATE. 

small library attached to it, showed in the 
luxurious fitting that her late owner had been 
a man of fine taste. In the very centre of 
her there was a deck-house for the chart-room, 
the skipper's and engineers' quarters, and a 
couple of spare cabins ; but generally the ac- 
commodation was below, there being three small 
cabins with two berths apiece each side the 
saloon, and room for the steward and his men 
amidships. The fo'castle was large, and airy, 
giving ample berthing for the stokers and sea- 
men ; while the whole ornament of the deck 
was bright-looking with brass, and smart rails, 
and pots of flowers, these last showing clearly 
that Mary had been at work. Indeed, I had 
scarce made my inspection of our new ship 
when she burst up from below, and began her 
explanation, standing with flushed cheeks, while 
the wind played in her hair, and her eyes danced 
with the merriment of it. 

" Come aboard," she said, mocking the sea- 
man's " Adsum" and I said 

"That's evident; the question is, when are 
you going ashore again ? " 

" I don't know, but I guess I'll get ashore at 
New York, because I mean to go to Niagara 

u You think you'll go ashore at New York, 
not ' you guess,' Mary." 

" But I do guess, and I don't think, and I 
wish you wouldn't interrupt me with your per- 



THE IRON PIRATE. in 

petual grammar. What's the good of grammar ? 
No one had a good lime with grammar yet." 

" That's not exactly the purpose of gram- 
mar " 

" No, nor of orthography, nor deportment ; I 
learnt all these at a guinea a quarter extra 
when I was at school, so you're just wasting 
your time, because I'm finished." 

" Finished ? " 

" Yes, didn't Roderick tell you that I went 
to a finishing school ? You wouldn't finish me 
all over again, would you ? " 

u Not for anything but the question is, why 
did you come aboard here, and why didn't you 
go to Salisbury ? What is your old aunt think- 
ing now ? " 

She laughed saucily, throwing back her head 
so that her hair fell well about her shoulders ; 
and then she would have answered me, but I 
turned round, hearing a step, and there stood 
our new second mate, Francis Paolo. Our eyes 
met at once with a long, searching gaze, but 
he did not flinch. If he were a spy, he was 
no poor actor, and he stood his ground without 
the movement of a muscle. 

" Well ? " I said. 

"Is Mr. Stewart awake yet, sir?" he said, 
asking for Roderick. 

" I don't know, but you may wake him if 
he isn't." 



ii2 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" The skipper wants a word with him when 
ne gets up," he continued ; " we are all ready 
to heave anchor when he speaks." 

u That's all right : I'll give you the word, 
so you can weigh now ; perhaps, Mary, you'll 
go and hammer at Roderick's door, or he'll 
sleep until breakfast time to-morrow." 

She ran at the word, and the new second 
mate turned to go, but first he followed the 
girl with his eyes, earnestly, as though he 
looked upon some all-fascinating picture. 

I watched him walk forward, and followed 
him, listening as he directed the men ; and a 
more seaman-like fellow I have never seen. If 
he were an Italian, he had left all accent of 
speech in his own co,untry, and he gave his 
orders smartly and in a tone which demanded 
obedience. About his seamanship I never had 
a doubt from the first ; and I say this now, a 
more capable officer than Francis Paolo never 
took a watch. 

Yet he was a man of violent temper, soon dis- 
played before me. 

As I watched him from the hurricane deck, I 
heard a collier who had not yet left the ship 
give him some impudence, and look jauntily to 
the men for approval ; but the smile was not 
off his cheeks when the new mate hit him such 
a terrific blow on the head with a spy-glass he 
held that the fellow reeled through the open 



THE IRON PIRATE. 113 

bulwarks right into his barge, which lay along- 
side. 

"That's to set your face straight," cried the 
mate after him ; " next time you laugh aboard 
here I'll balance you on the other side." 

The men were hushed before a display of 
temper like this ; the skipper on the bridge 
flushed red with disapproval, but said nothing. 

The order " Hands, heave anchor ! " was 
sung out a moment after as Roderick joined 
me aft, the new Celsis steamed away from Ply- 
mouth, and the episode was forgotten. 

For truly, as we lost sight of the town 
and the beautiful yacht moved slowly upon the 
broader bosom of the Channel, thoughts of great 
moment held us ; and I, for my part, fell to 
wondering if I should ever see the face of my 
country again. 

And in that hou; the great pursuit oegan. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

I DREAM OF PAOLO. 

WE had left the Scilly Light two days ; the 
Celsis steamed steadily on the great broad of 
the Atlantic. Night had fallen, and Mary had 
gone below, leaving me with Roderick upon the > 
aft-deck, watching the veriest rim of a moon 
which gave no pretence of a picture, no orna- 
ment to the deck. 

It was Paolo's watch ; and the skipper had 
turned in, so that, save for the occasional ring- 
ing of a bell, or a call from the look-out, no 
sound but the whirring of the screw and the 
surge of the swell fell upon our ear. A night 
for dreamy thoughts of home, of kinsfolk, of the 
more tender things of life ; but for us a night 
for the talk of that great " might be " which was 
then so powerful a source of speculation for 
both of us. And we were eager to talk, eager 
then as ever since the beginning of it all ; eager, 
above all things for the moment, to know when 
we should next hear of Captain Black or of the 
nameless ship. 

" I shouldn't wonder," said Roderick, after 
twenty surmises of the sort, " if we heard some- 



THE IRON PIRATE. 115 

thing of her as we cross. I have given York orders 
to keep well in the track of steamers ; and if 
your friend Hall be right, that is just where the 
unknown ship will keep. I would give a thousand 
pounds to know the story of the man Black. 
What can he be ? Is he mad ? Is it possible 
that a man could commit piracy, to-day, in the 
Atlantic, where is the traffic of the world ; where, 
if the Powers once learnt of it, they could hunt 
him down in a day ? And yet, put into plain 
English, that is the tale your friend tells." 

" It is ; I have never doubted that from the 
first. Captain Black is either the most original 
villain living, or the whole story is a silly dream 
besides, we have yet to learn if he is the com- 
mander of the nameless ship : we have also to 
learn if the nameless ship is not a myth. Time 
alone will tell, and our wits." 

" If they are not knocked out of us in the 
attempt, for, see you, Mark, a man with a hole in 
his head is a precious poor person, and, of course, 
you are prepared either way, success or the other 
thing." 

u For either ; but I trust one of us may come 
out of it, for Mary's sake.'' 

The thought made him very silent, and pre- 
sently he turned in. I remained above for half 
an hour, gazing over the great sweep of the 
Atlantic. Paolo was on the bridge, as I have said, 
and, in accordance with my design, I took all 



1 16 THE IRON PIRATE. 

opportunity of watching him. That night some 
inexplicable impulse held me awake when all others 
slept. I made pretence, first of all, to go to my 
cabin ; and bawled a good-night to the mate as 
I went ; but it was only to put on felt slippers 
and to get a warm coat, and, with these secured, 
I made my way stealthily amidships ; and took a 
stand aft of the skipper's cabin, where I could 
pry, yet not be seen. Not that I got much for 
my pains ; but I heard Paolo address several of 
the men forward, and it seemed to me that his 
mode of speech was not quite that which should 
be between officer and seaman. Perchance he was 
guilty of nothing more than common affability ; 
but yet I would rather have had him gruff and 
meddlesome than free and intimate. 

It chanced that in this watch the new men were 
on deck, my old crew being in the port watch, or I 
would have questioned them there and then. As 
it was, I let the matter go, and smoked ; and, 
indeed, when another bell had struck, I was more 
than rewarded for rny pains. Suddenly, on the far 
horizon over the starboard bow, I saw the flare of a 
blue light, bright over the water ; and showing as 
it flared, the dark hull of a great ship. The light 
was unmistakably, I thought, the signal of an ocean- 
going steamer which had sighted another of hex 
company still far away from us ; but I had no more 
than time to come to this conclusion when, to my 
profound amazement, Paolo himself struck light to 



THE IRON PIRATE. 117 

a flare which he had with him "on the bridge, and 
answered the signal, our own light showing far out, 
and lighting the great moving sea on which we 
rode so that one could count every crest about it. 

The action completely staggered me. Without 
a thought I rushed up the ladder to the hurricane 
deck and stood beside him. He started as he saw 
me, and I could see him biting his lips, while an 
ugly look came into his eyes. But I charged him 
at once. 

" Good-evening, Mister Mate," I said ; " will 
you kindly tell me why you burnt that blue 
"light ? " 

His excuse came readily. 

" I burnt it to answer the signal yonder." 

" But that was no affair of ours ! " 
le shrugged his shoulders, and muttered some- 
thing about custom and something else, which he 
meant to be impudent. Yet in another moment he 
made effort to recall himself, and met me with an 
open, smiling face which covered anger. I began 
to upbraid myself for the folly of it, bursting out 
thus when there \vas no call for show ; and I turned 
the talk to other things, searching to learn about 
him and his past ; yet it was without reward, for 
he fenced in speech with all the point of a close 
Scotsman. But we came down the bridge together 
when the new watch was set ; and he took a glass 
of wine with me in the saloon. 

It was all well acted, a fine pretence of common 



ii8 THE IRON PIRATE. 

civility, yet I believe that we two then took ac- 
quaintance of each other in the fullest measure ; 
and he learnt, though he did not show it, that in the 
game of eavesdropping there may be two that play. 

When I turned in at last, the little wind there 
was had fallen away, so that the yacht was almost 
without motion ; save, indeed, that long roll from 
which an ocean-going ship is rarely free. I had the 
electric light in my cabin with a tap on the end 
of my bunk, mighty convenient for reading and 
waking ; but I was full of sleep in spite of what had 
been above, and I turned out the lamp directly I 
fell upon my bed. 

I think I must have slept very heavily for an 
hour, when a great sense of unrest and waking 
weariness took me, and I lay, now dozing, now 
dreaming, so that in all my dreams I saw the face 
of Paolo. I seemed to walk the deck of the Celsis, 
yet was Paolo there more strong and masterful than 
I ; again I went to the stoke-hole, and he was 
charging the men with much authority ; I hurried 
thence to the saloon, and in my silly dream I 
thought to see Captain Black upon the one hand 
and Paolo on the other, and a great friendship of 
manner and discourse between them. 

Again I slept the black sleep ; but it passed 
into other visions, so that in one of them I seemed 
to be lying awake in my own cabin, and the man 
Paolo stood over me, looking straight into my eyes ; 
and when I would have risen up to question him I 



THE IRON PIRATE. 119 

was powerless, held still in every limb, living, yet 
without life or speech a horrid dream from which 
I seemed to rouse myself only at the touch of some- 
thing cold upon my outstretched hand ; and then 
at last I opened my eyes and saw, during the veriest 
reality of time, that others looked down into mine. 
I saw them for some small part of a second, yet in 
the faint light that came from the port I recognised 
the face and the form, and was certain of them ; for 
the man who had been watching me as I slept was 
Paolo. 

A quick sense of clanger waked me thoroughly 
then. I put my hand to the tap of the electric 
light and the white rays flooded the cabin. But 
the cabin was empty and Roderick's dog sat by my 
trunk, and had, I could see, been licking my hand 
as I lay. 

I knew not how to make out the meaning of it ; 
but I was trembling from the horror of the dream, 
and went above in my flannels. It was dawn then ; 
and day was coming up out of the sea, cold and 
bearing mists, which lay low over the long restful 
waves. Dan was aft on the quarter-deck, and the 
first officer was on the bridge, but I looked into 
Paolo's bunk, and he slept there, in so heavy a 
sleep that I began to doubt altogether the truth of 
what I had believed. How could this man have 
left my cabin as he had done, and yet now be 
berthed in his own ? The dream had cheated me, 
as dreams often do. 



120 THE IRON PIRATE. 

But more sleep was not to be thought of. I fell 
to talk with Dan, and paced the deck with him, 
asking what was his opinion of our new second 
mate. 

He scratched his head before he answered, and 
looked wise, as he loved to look 

" Lord, sir, it's not for me to be spoutin' about 
them as is above me ; but you ask me a fair 
question, and I'll give you a fair answer. Jn 
course, I ain't the party to be thinking ill of any 
man not Dan, which is plain and English, though 
some as is scholars say it should be Dan'el ; but 
what I do know, I know you won't be contra- 
dictin' that, will you ? " 

I told him to get on with it ; but he wa:> 
woefully deliberate, cutting tobacco to chew, and 
hitching himself up before he was under weigh 
again. 

" Now," he said at last, " the fact about our 
second is this, in my opinion which ain't mine, 
but the whole of 'em he's no more'n a ship with a 
voice under the fore-hatch " 

I laughed at him as I asked, "And what's the 
matter with a ship like that ? Why shouldn't there 
be a voice under the fore-hatch, Dan ? " 

He lit his pipe behind the aft skylight, and 
then answered", as he puffed clouds of smoke to 
the lee-side 

"Well, you see, sir, as there ain't nobody a-livin' 
in that perticler olace, you don't go for to look to 



THE IRON PIRATE. 121 

hearin' of voices, or, in plain lingo, there's some- 
thing queer about it." 

" And that's your opinion, Dan ? " 
" As true as this fog's a-liftin' to windward." 
I looked as he jerked his thumb to port, and, sure 
enough, the curtain of the fog, was drawn up from 
the sea as the wind's wand scattered it. Glorious 
and joy -giving the sun arose, and the whole horizon- 
bound expanse of rolling, green water lay beneath 
us. There is something of God in every daybreak, 
as most men admit, but I know nothing against 
the glory of a morn upon the Atlantic for bringing 
home to a man the delight in mere existence. The 
very sense of strength which the breeze bears, the 
limitless deep green of the unmeasured seas, the 
great arch of the zenith, the clear view of the sun's 
march, the purity and the stillness and the mastery 
of it all, the consciousness of the puny power of 
man, the mind message recalling the sublimity and 
the awe of the unseen Power beyond all these 
things impress you, move in you the deepest 
thoughts, turn you from the little estimates of self 
as Nature only can in the holiest of her moods, 
which are sought yet never found in the cities. 
Nor can I ever welcome the breath of the great 
sea's vigour and refuse to listen to her voice, which 
comes with so powerful a message, even as a message 
from the great Unknown, whose hand controls, and 
whose spirit is on, the waters. 

The sound of a gun-shot to leeward awoke me 
E 



122 THE IRON PIRATE. 

from my thoughts. The fog was yet lying there 
upon the sea, and for some while none of us, ex- 
pectant as we were, could discern aught. But, 
fearing that some vessel lay in distress, we put the 
helm up and went half-speed for a time. We had 
cruised thus for five minutes or more when a terrific 
report burst upon our ears, and this time to the 
alarm of every man who trod deck. For this second 
report was not that of a small gun such as crippled 
ships may use, but the thunderous echoing of a 
great weapon which a man-of-war only could carry. 
The sound died away slowly ; but in the same 
minute the fog lifted ; and I saw, away a mile on 
the starboard bow, a spectacle which brought a 
great flush upon my face, and let me hear the 
sound of my own heart beating. 



CHAPTER IX. 

I FALL IN WITH THE NAMELESS SHIP. 

THERE were two great ships abreast of each other, 
and they were steaming with so great a pressure of 
steam that the dark green water was cleaved into 
two huge waves of foam before their bows ; and 
the spray ran right over their fo'castles and fell in 
tons upon their decks. 

The more distant of the two ships was long in 
shape and dark in colour ; she had four masts upon 
which topsails and staysails were set, and two 
funnels painted white, but marked with the anchor 
which clearly set her down to be one of the famous 
Black Anchor fleet. My powerful spyglass gave 
me a full view of her decks, which I saw to be dark 
with the figures of passengers and crew all crowding 
to the port side, wherefrom the other ship was rp 
proaching her. 

Yet was it this other ship which drew our gaze 
rather than the great steamer which seemed to be 
pursued. Almost of the same length as the pas- 
senger steamer, which she now approached obliquely, 
she rode the long swell with perfect grace, and 
many of her deck-houses and part of her prow 
shone with the brightness of pure gold. Full 



i2 4 THE IRON PIRATE. 

the sun fell upon her in a sheen of shimmering 
splendour, throwing great reflected lights which 
dazzled the eye so that it could scarce hold any 
continued gaze upon her. And, indeed, every 
ornament on her seemed to be made of the precious 
metal, now glowing to exceeding brilliance in the 
full power of the sunlight. 

She was a very big ship, as I have said, and she 
had all the shape of a ship of war, while the turrets 
fore and aft of her capacious funnel showed the 
muzzles of two big guns. I could see by my glass 
a whole wealth of armament in the foretop of her 
short mast forward ; and high points in her fo'castle 
marked the spot where many other machine guns 
were ready for action. At her towering and lofty 
prow there was indicated clearly the curve of the 
ram which now ploughed the dark water and 
curdled it into the fountains of foam which fell 
upon her decks ; while amidships, the outline of a 
conning-tower showed more clearly for what aggres- 
sive purpose she had been designed. There was at 
this spot, too, a great deck erection, with a gallery 
and a bridge for navigation ; but no men showed 
upon the platform, and, for the matter of that, no 
soul trod her decks, so far as our observation went. 
Yet her speed was such as I do not believe any ship 
achieved before. I have spent many years upon 
the sea ; have crossed the Atlantic in some of the 
most speedy of those cruisers which are the just 
pride of a later-day shipbuilding art ; I have raced 



THE IRON PIRATE. 125 

in torpedo-boats over known miles ; but of this I 
have no measure of doubt, that the speed of 
which that extraordinary vessel then proved her- 
self capable was such as no other that ever swam 
could for one moment cope with. Now rising 
majestically on the long roll of the swell, now falling 
into the concave of the sea, she rushed onward 
towards the steamer she was evidently pursuing as 
though driven by all the furies of the deep. 

As we watched her, held rooted to our places as 
men who are looking upon some strange and un- 
canny picture, the gun in her foremost turret 
belched out flame and smoke, and we observed 
the rise and fall of a shell, which cut the water a 
cable's length ahead of the straining steamer and 
sank hissing beneath the sea. At that moment 
she ran up a flag upon her signal mast, and, as I 
read it with my glass, I saw that it was the flag of 
the Chilian Republic. 

Now, indeed, the pursuit became so engrossing 
that my own men began to sing out, and this re- 
minded me that every soul aboard the Celsis had 
watched with me when I first set eyes on the name- 
less ship. I turned to our skipper, who stood near 
on the hurricane deck, and saw that he in turn was 
looking hard at me. Roderick had come up from 
his cabin, but rested at the top of the companion 
ladder in so dazed a mood that no speech came 
from him. The first officer had scarce his wits 
about him to steer our own course, and the whole 



126 THE IRON PIRATE. 

of the hands forward in a little group upon the 
fo'castle now called out their views, then turned 
to ask what it meant. 

It was a matter of satisfaction to me that Mary 
still slept, and I looked for the appearance of Paolo 
with some question. But he remained below 
through it all. And at that I wondered more. 

The skipper was the first to speak. 

u That ship yonder," said he, jerking his thumb 
to starboard ; " is it any business of ours ? " 

li None that I know of," I replied ; " but it's a 
mighty fine sight, skipper, don't you think, a Chilian 
warship running after a liner in broad daylight ? 
What's your opinion ? " 

He shrugged his shoulders disdainfully, and took 
another sight through his glass. Then he answered 
me 

" It's a fine sight enough, God knows, but I 
would give half I'm worth to be a hundred miles 
away from it " ; and here he suddenly wheeled, and, 
facing me roughly, he asked 

" Do you want me to get this boat into port 
again ? " 

" Of course. Is there any great need to answer 
a question like that? " 

" At the moment, yes ; for, with your pleasure, 
I'm going to put up the helm and sheer off. I'm 
not a man that loves fighting myself, and, with a 
ship and crew to look after, I've no business in any 
affair of that sort ; but it's for you to say." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 127 

Before I could answer him, Roderick moved 
from his place and came up on the bridge where 
we stood. 

" Hold on a bit, skipper," he cried, " as we are, 
if you please ; why, man, it's a sight I wouldn't miss 
for a fortune." 

The skipper searched him with his eyes with a 
keen, lasting gaze, that implied his doubt of the 
pair of us. His voice had a fine ring of sarcasm in 
it when he replied after the silence ; but all he said 
was, " It's your affair," and then turned to the first 
officer. 

" Don't you think he was right ? " I asked 
Roderick in a low voice, when the chief's back 
was turned, but he whispered again 

" Not yet we must see more of it ; and they're 
too much occupied to hunt after us. We'll be 
away long before those two have settled accounts ; 
and, look now, I can see a man on the bridge of the 
yellow ship. Do you mark him ? " 

I had my glass to my eye in a moment, and the 
light was so full upon the vessel, which must then 
have been a mile and a half away from us, that I 
could prove his words ; for, sure enough, there was 
now someone moving upon the bridge, and, as I 
fixed my powerful lens, I thought that I could 
recognise the shape of a man ; but I would not 
speak my mind to Roderick until I had a nearer 
view. 

" You are right," I answered ; u but what sort 



128 THE IRON PIRATE. 

of a man I will tell you presently. Did you ever 
see anything like the pace that big ship is 
showing ? She must be moving at twenty-five 
knots." 

" Yes, it's amazing ; and what's more, there 
isn't a show of smoke at her funnel." 

This was true, but I had not noticed it. 
Throughout the strange scene we saw, this vessel 
of mystery never gave one sign that men worked 
at her furnaces below. Neither steam nor smoke 
came from her, no evidence, even the most trifling, 
of that terrible power which was then driving 
her through the seas at such a fearful speed. 

But of the activity of her human crew we 
had speedily further sign ; for, almost as I an- 
swered, there was some belching of flame from 
her turret, and this time the shell, hurtling 
through the air with that hissing song which 
every gunner knows so well, crashed full upon 
the fore-part of the great liner, and we heard 
the shout of terror which rose from those upon 
her decks. The men appeared at the signal-mast 
of the pursuer, and rapidly made signals in the 
common code. 

" Skipper, do you see that ? they're signal- 
ling," I cried out. u Get your glass up and take 
a sight " ; but he had already done so. 

" It's the signal to lie to, and wait a boat," he 
said ; " there's someone going aboard." 

The fulfilment of the reading was instant. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 129 

While yet we had not realised that the omvard 
rush of the two boats was stayed the foam fell away 
from their bows ; and they rode the seas superbly, 
sitting the long swells with a beautiful ease. But 
there was activity on the deck of the nameless ship, 
the men were at the davits on the starboard side 
swinging off a launch, which dropped presently 
into the sea with a crew of some half-a-dozen men. 
For ourselves, we were now quite close up to them, 
but so busily were they occupied that I believed we 
had escaped all notice. Yet I got my glass full 
upon the man who walked the bridge ; and I 
knew him. 

He was the man I had met in the Rue Joubert 
at Paris, the one styled Captain Black by my friend 
Hall. 

The last link in the long chain was welded then. 
The whole truth of that weird document, so fantas- 
tical, so seemingly wild, so fearful, was made mani- 
fest ; the dead man's words were vindicated, his 
every deduction was unanswerable. There on the 
great Atlantic waste, I had lived to see one of those 
terrible pictures which he had conceived in his long 
dreaming ; and through all the excitement, above 
all the noise, I thought that I heard his voice, and 
the grirn " Ahoys ! " of my own seamen on the 
night he died. 

This strange recognition was unknown to 
Roderick, who had never seen Captain Black, nor 
had any notion of his appearance. But he waited 

K* 



130 THE IRON PIRATE. 

for some remark from me ; yet, fearing to be heard, 
I only looked at him, and in that look he read 
all. 

" Mark," he said, " it's time to go ; we'll be the 
next when that ship's at the bottom." 

" My God ! " I answered, " he can't do such a 
thing as that. If I thought so, I would stand by 
here at the risk of a thousand lives 

"That's wild talk. What can we do? He 
would shiver us up with one of his machine guns 
and, besides, we have Mary on board." 

Indeed, she stood by us as we spoke, very pale 
and quiet, looking where the two ships lay motion- 
less, the boat from the one now at the very side ot 
the black steamer, whose name, the Ocean King, 
we could plainly read. She had, unnoticed by us, 
seen the work of the last shell, which splintered the 
groaning vessel, and made her reel upon the water, 
and Mary's instinct told her that we stood where 
danger was. 

" Don't you think you're better below, Mary ? " 
asked Roderick ; but she had her old answer 

" Not until you go ; and why should I make any 
difference ? I overheard what you said. Am I to 
stand between you and those men's lives ? " 

She clung to my arm as she spoke, and her 
boldness gave us new courage. 

" I am for standing by to the end," said I ; 
" if we save one soul, it's an English work to do, 
anyway." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 131 

Roderick looked at Alary, and then he turned 
to the skipper 

" Do you wish to go on the other tack now ? " 
he asked ; but the skipper was himself again. 

" Gentlemen," he said, '' it's your yacht, and 
these are your men ; if you care to keep them 
afloat, keep them. If it's your fancy to do the other 
thing, why, do it. It's a matter of indifference to 
me." 

His words were heard by all the hands, and 
from that time there was something of a clamour 
amongst them ; but I stepped forward to have out 
what was in my mind, and they heard me quietly. 

"Men," I said, "there's ugly work over there, 
work which I make nothing of ; but it's clear that 
an English ship is running from a foreigner, and 
may want help. Shall we leave her, or shall we 
stand by ? " 

They gave a great shout at this, and the 
skipper touched the bell, which stopped the 
engines. We lay then quite near both to 
the pursued and the pursuer, and there was no 
longer any doubt truit we had been seen. 

Glasses were turned upon us from the decks of 
the yellow ship, and from the poop of the Ocean 
King, whose men were still busy with the signal 
flags, and this time, as we made out, in a direct re- 
quest to us that we should stand by. 

I doubt not that the excitement and the dan- 
ger of the position alone nerved us to this work 



1 32 THE IRON PIRATE. 

of amazing foolhardiness, which was so like to 
have ended in our complete undoing ; and, as 
I watched the captain of the steamer parleying 
with the men in the launch below him, I could but 
ask What next ? when will our turn be ? 

But the scene was destined to end in a way al- 
together different from what we had anticipated. 

While a tall man with fair hair my glass gave 
me the impression that he was the fellow known as 
" Roaring John " stood in the bows of the 
launch, and appeared to be gesticulating wildly 
to the skipper of the Ocean King, the nameless 
ship set up of a sudden a great shrieking with 
her deck whistle, which she blew three times with 
terrific power ; and at the third sound of it the 
launch, which had been holding to the side of the 
steamer, let go, running rapidly back to the armed 
vessel, where it was taken aboard again. 

The whole thing was done in so short a space of 
time that our men had scarce an opportunity to ex- 
press surprise when the launch was hanging at the 
davits again. The great activity that we had ob- 
served on the decks of the war-vessel ceased as 
mysteriously as it had begun. Again there was 
no sign of living being about her ; but she moved 
at once, and bounded past us at a speed the like oi 
which I had never seen upon the deep. 

So remarkable a face-about seemed to dumb- 
found our men. They stood staring at each 
other like those amazed, and seeking explanation. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 133 

But the key to the riddle was given, not by one 
of them, but by Paolo, whom I now found at my 
elbow, his usually placid face all aglow with ex- 
citement. 

"Ha!" he cried, "she's American !" 

He made a wild point at the far horizon over 
our stern ; and then I saw what troubled him. 
There was a great white steamer coming up at 
a high speed, and I knew the form of her at 
once, and of two others that followed her. She 
was one of the American navy, crossing to her 
own country from Europe, whither she had been 
to watch the British manoeuvres. The secret of 
the flight was no longer inexplicable ; the yellow 
ship had fled from the trap into which she was 
so nearly falling. 

" You have sharp eyes, Paolo," said I ; " I 
imagine it's lucky for the pair of us." 

He shrugged his shoulders angrily, and then 
said very meaningly 

"Perhaps." 

I had no time to reckon with him, for I was 
as much absorbed as he was in the scene which 
followed. The nameless ship, of a sudden, ceased 
her flight, and came almost to a stand some 
half a mile away on our port-bow. For a moment 
her purpose was hidden, yet only for a moment. 
As she swung round to head the seas, I saw at 
once that another cruiser, long and white, and 
seemingly well-armed had come up upon that 



134 THE IRON PIRATE. 

side, and now barred her passage. At last, she 
was to cope with one worthy of her, and at the 
promise of battle, a hush, awful in its intensity, 
fell upon all of us. 

For some minutes the two vessels lay, the one 
broadside to the other, the Americans making 
signals which were unanswered ; but the nameless 
ship had now hundreds of men about her decks, 
and these were at the machine-guns and else- 
where active in preparation. It became plain 
that her captain had made up his mind to some 
plan, for the great hull swung round slowly, and 
passed at a moderate speed past the bow of the 
other. When she was nearly clear, her two 
great guns were fired almost simultaneously, and, 
as the shells swept along the deck of the cruiser, 
they carried men and masts and deck-houses with 
them, in one devilish confusion of wreckage and 
of death. To such an onslaught there was no 
answer. The cruiser was utterly unprepared for 
the treachery, and lay reeling on the sea ; 
screams and fearful cries coming from her decks, 
now quivering under a torrent of fire as her 
opponent treated her to the hail of her machine- 
guns. 

The battle could have ended but in one way, 
had not the other American warships now come 
so close to us that they opened fire with their 
great guns. The huge shells hissed over our 
heads, and all about us, plunging into the sea 



THE IRON PIRATE. 135 

with such mighty concussions that fountains ol 
green water arose in twenty places, and the near 
surface of the Atlantic became turbulent with 
foam. Such a powerful onslaught could have 
been resisted by no single vessel, and, seeing 
that he was like to be surrounded, the captain 
of the nameless ship, which had already been 
struck three times in her armour, fired twice 
from his turrets, and then headed off at that 
prodigious speed he had shown in the beginning 
of his flight. In five minutes he was out of 
gun-shot ; in ten, the American vessels were 
taking men from their crippled cruiser, whose 
antagonists had almost disappeared on the horizon ! 
Upon our own decks the noise and hubbub 
were almost deafening. From a state of nervous 
tension and doubt our men had passed to a state 
of joy. Half of them were for going aboard the 
damaged vessels at once ; half for getting under 
weigh and moving from such dangerous waters. 
Our talk upon the quarter-deck soon brought us 
to the first-named course, and we put out a boat 
with ease upon the still sea, and hailed the 
passenger steamer after twenty minutes' stout 
rowing. She was yet a pitiful spectacle ; for as 
we drew near to her, I could see women weep- 
ing hysterically on the seats aft, and men al- 
ternately helping them and looking over in the 
direction whence the three American ironclads 
steamed. Indeed, it was a picture of great 



136 THE IRON PIRATE. 

confusion and distress, and we hailed those on her 
bridge three times before we got any answer. 
When we did get up on her main-deck. Captain 
Ross, her commander, greeted us with great 
thanks ; but he was a sorry spectacle of a man, 
being white as his own ensign with anger, and 
his voice trembled as the voice of a man suffering 
some great emotion. He took us to his chart- 
room, for he would have all particulars about us, 
both our names and addresses, with those of our 
officers, for a witness when he should call the 
British Government to take action. 

" Twenty years," he said, with tears of anger 
in his eyes, " twenty years I have crossed the 
Atlantic, but this is the first time that I ever 
heard the like. Good God, sirs ! it's nothing less 
than piracy on the high seas ; and they shall 
swing, every man Jack of them, as high as 
Haman ! What think ye ? They signal me to 
lie to me that has the mails and a hundred 
thousand pounds in specie aboard ; they fire a 
shot across my bows, and when I signal that I'll 
see them in hell before I bate a knot, why you 
watched it yourselves they struck me in the 
fo'castle, and there's two of my dead men below 
now ; but they shall swing " and he brought 
his fist upon the table with a mighty thud 
" they shall swing, if there's only one rope in 
Europe." 

I had sorrow for the man who was thus moved 



THE IRON PIRATE. 137 

for the most part, I could see, at the loss of 
his two men. Then I went fonvard with the 
others to the place of wreckage, and for the 
first time in my life I observed the colossal havoc 
which a shell may leave in its path. The single 
shot which had struck the steamer had cut her 
two skins of steel as though they had been skins 
of cheese ; had splintered the wood of the men's 
bunks, so that it lay in match-like fragments 
which a fine knife might have hewed ; had 
passed again through the steel on the starboard 
side, and so burst, leaving the fo'castle one tum- 
bled mass of torn blankets, little rags of linen, 
fragments of wood, of steel, of clothes which had 
been in the men's chests ; and, more horrible to 
recount, particles of human flesh. Three men 
were below when the crash came, and two of 
them had their limbs torn apart ; while, by one 
of the miracles which oft attend the passage of a 
shot, the third, being in a low bunk when the 
shell struck, escaped almost uninjured. This 
desolate and wrecked cabin was shown to us by 
Captain Ross, whose anger mounted at every 
step. 

" What does it mean ? " he kept asking. " Are 
we at war ? You saw the Chilian flag. Is there 
no Treaty of Paris, then ? Does he go out to 
filch every ship he meets ? Will he do this, and 
our Government take no steps ? Can't you 
answer me that ? " But he poured out his 



138 THE IRON PIRATE. 

questions with such rapidity, and he was so overcome, 
that we followed him in silence as he walked be- 
neath the awnings of the upper decks, and showed 
us women still talking hysterically, men unnerved 
and witless as children, seamen yet finding curses 
for the atrocity that had been. By this time, 
the first of the American ships had come up with 
us, and the commander of her put out a boat, 
and having gone aboard the maimed cruiser, he 
came afterwards to the Black Anchor ship, and 
joined us in the chart-room. I will make no at- 
tempt to set down for you his surprise nor his 
incredulity. I believe that the scene in the 
fo'castle alone convinced him that we were not 
all raving madmen ; but, when once he grasped 
our story, he was not a whit behind us, either 
in intensity of expression or of sympathy. 

u It's an international question, I guess," he 
said ; " and if he doesn't pay with his neck for 
the twenty men dead on my cruiser, to say 
nothing of the twenty thousand pounds or more 
damage to her, I will why, we'll run her down 
in four-and-twenty hours. You took his course ? " 

" \Vest by south-west, almost dead," said the 
captain ; and I heard it agreed between them 
that the second cruiser of the American fleet 
should start at once in pursuit, while the iron- 
clads should accompany us to New York, so 
making a little convoy for safety's sake. 

With this arrangement we left the ship and 



THE IRON PIRATE. 139 

regained the Cclsis. Paolo stood at the top of 
the ladder as I came on deck, and listened, I 
thought, to our protestations that the danger was 
over with something of a sneer on his face. 

Indeed, I thought that I heard him mutter, 
as he went to his cabin, " Vcdrcmrj '' but I did 
not know then how much the laugh was to be 
against us, and that we should leave the convoy 
long before we reached New York. 



CHAPTER X. 

THE SPREAD OF THE TERROR. 

FOR full five days we steamed with the other 
vessels, under no stress to keep the sea with 
them, since they made no more than twelve 
knots, for the sake of the cruiser which had been 
so fearfully maimed in the short action with the 
nameless ship. During this time there was little 
power of wind ; and the breeze continuing soft 
from the north-east, it was easy business to hold 
sight of the convoy, which we did to the satis- 
faction of every man aboard us. But I could 
not put away from myself the knowledge that 
the events of the first three days had made much 
talk in the fo'castle and that a feeling akin to 
terror prevailed amongst the men. 

This came home to me with some force on 
the early morning of the fifth day. I found my- 
self unable to sleep restfully in my bunk, and 
went above at daybreak, to see the white hulls 
of the American war - vessels a mile away 
on the port-quarter and the long line of the 
Black Anchor boat a few cables'-lengths ahead of 
them. Paolo was on the bridge, but I did not 
hail him, thinking it better to give the man few 



THE IRON PIRATE. 141 

words until we sighted Sandy Hook. He, in 
turn, maintained his sullen mood ; but he did 
not neglect to be much amongst the hands, and 
his intimacy with them increased from day to 
day. 

Now, when I came on deck this morning, I 
found that the breeze, strong and fresh though it 
was, put me in that soporific state I had sought 
unavailingly in my bunk. There was a deck-chair 
well placed behind the shelter of the saloon sky- 
light, and upon this I made myself at ease, drawing 
my peaked hat upon my eyes, and getting the 
sleep-music from the swish of the sea, as it ran 
upon us, and sprinted from the tiller right away 
to the bob-stay. But no sleep could I get ; for 
scarce was I set upon the chair when I heard 
Dan the other side of the skylight, and he was 
holding forth with much fine phrase to Roderick's 
dog, Belle. 

" Yes," he said, apparently treating the beast 
as though possessed of all human attributes. 
" Yes, you don't go for to say nothing, but you're 
a Christian dog, I don't doubt ; and yer heart's 
in the right place ; or it's not me as would be 
wasting me time talking to yer. Now, what I 
says is, you're comfortable enough, with Missie 
a-makin' as much of yer as if good fresh beef 
weren't tenpence a pound, and yer mouth warn't 
large enough to take in a hundredweight ; but 
that ain't the way with the rest of us no, my 



142 THE IRON PIRATE. 

old woman, not by a cable's-length ; we're afloat 
on a rum job, old lad)- ; and some of us won't 
go for to pipe when it's the day for payin' off 
not by a long way. So you hear ; and don't 
get answerin' of me, for what I spoke's logic, 
and there's an end of it." 

I called him to me, and had it out with him 
there and then. 

u What's in the wind now, Dan," I asked, " that 
you're preaching to the dog ? " 

"Ay, that's it," he replied, putting his hand 
into his pocket for his tobacco-box. " What's in 
the wind ? why, you'd have to be askin' of it to 
learn, I fancy." 

u Is there any more nonsense amongst the men 
forward ? " 

u There's a good deal of talk maybe more than 
there should be." 

il And what do they talk about ? Tell me 
straight, Dan." 

u Well, I've got nothing, for my part, to 
hide away, and I don't know as they should 
have ; but you know this ship is a dead 



"Who told you that stuff?" 

" No other than our second mate, sir, as sure 
as I cut this quid. Not as yarns like that affect 
me ; but, you see, some skulls is thick as plate- 
armour, and some is thin as egg-shells : and 
when the thin 'uns gets afloat with corpse?, why, 



THE IRON PIRATE. 143 

it's a chest of shiners to a handspike as they 
cracks now, ain't it ? " 

'' Dan, this is the most astounding story 
that I have yet heard. Would you make it 
plainer ? for, upon my life, I can't read your 
course ! " 

He sat down on the edge of the skylight 
long service had given him a claim to familiarity 
and filled his pipe from my tobacco - pouch 
before he answered, and then was mighty delib- 
erate. 

" Plain yarns, Mister Mark, is best told in the 
fo'castle, and not by hands upon the quarter-deck ; 
but, asking pardon for the liberty, I feel more like 
a father to you gentlemen than if I was nat'ral born 
to it ; and this I do say What's this trip mean ; 
what's in yer papers ? and why ain't it the 
pleasure vige we struck flag for ? For it ain't 
a pleasure vige, that a shoreman could see ; and you 
ain't come across the Atlantic for the seein' of 
it, nor for merchandise nor barter, nor because 
you wanted to come. That's what the hands 
say at night when the second's a-talkin' to 'em 
over the grog he finds 'em. ( Where's it going 
to end ? ' says he ; ' what is yer wages for takin' 
yer lives where they shouldn't be took ? and,' 
says he, ' in a ship what the last skipper died 
aboard of it,' says he, ' died so sudden, and was 
so fond of his old place as who knows where he 
is now, afloat or ashore, p'r'aps a-walking this very 



i 4 4 THE IRON PIRATE. 

cabin, and not bringing no luck for the vige, 
neither,' says he. And what follows ? why, 
white-livered jawings, and this man afeard to 
go here, and that man afeard to go there, 
and the Old One amongst 'em, so that half of 
'em says, ' We was took false,' and the other 
half, ' Why not 'bout ship and home again ? ' 
No, and you ain't done with it, not by a long 
day, and you won't have done with it until you 
drop anchor in Yankee-land, if ever you do drop 
anchor there, which I take leave to give no word 
upon." 

" It's a curious state of things. You mean to 
say, I suppose, that there's terror amongst them 
plain terror, and nothing else ? " 

" Ay, sure ! " 

" Then it remains for us to face them. What's 
your opinion on that ? " 

" My opinion is, as you won't go for to do it, 
but will take your victuals, and play your music 
in the aft parlour, and skeer away the Old One 
with the singing, as ye've skeered him already 
that's what ye'll do afore Missie and the skipper 
but by yourself, you won't have two eyes shut 
when you sleep, and you won't have two eyes 
open when you're above ; and when you're 
wanted you won't be an hour getting yourself 
nor Mr. Roderick under weigh and that's the 
end of it, for there goes the bell." 

The watch changed as he spoke, and I went 



THE IRON PIRATE. 145 

below to the bathroom ; thence, not thinking 
much of Dan's terror, nor of the men's 
petty grumbling, I joined the others at break- 
fast. We were now well towards the end of the 
journey, and I itched to set foot in America. 
The new safety in the presence of the warships 
had given us light hearts ; and that fifth day we 
passed in great games of deck-quoits and cricket, 
with a soft ball which the bo'sun made for us 
out of to\v and linen. The men worked cheer- 
fully enough, giving the He direct to Dan ; and 
when Mary played to us after dinner at night I 
began to think that, all said and done, we should 
touch shore with no further happening ; and 
that then I could make all use of the man Paolo 
and his knavery. So I went to bed at ten 
o'clock, and for an hour or two I slept with the 
deep forgetfulness which is the reward of a weary 
man. 

At what hour Dan awoke me I cannot tell 
you. He shook me twice in the effort, he said, 
and when I would have turned up the electric 
light, he seized my hand roughly, muttering in 
a great whisper, " Hold steady." I knew then 
that mischief was afloat, and asked him what to 
do. 

" Crawl above," he said, " and lie low a-deck " ; 
and he went up the companion ladder when I got 
my flannels and rubber-shod shoes upon me. But at 
the topmost step he stood awhile, and then he fell 



146 THE IRON PIRATE. 

flat on his hands, and backed again down the stair- 
way, so that he came almost on top of me ; but I 
saw what prompted his action, for, as he moved, 
there was a shadow thrown from the deck light 
down to where we lay ; and then a man stepped 
upon the stair and descended slowly, his feet naked, 
but in his hand an iron bar ; for he had no other 
weapon. At the sight of him, we had backed to 
the foot of the stairway ; and, as the man crept 
down, we lay still, so that you could hear every 
quiver of the glass upon the table of the saloon ; 
and we watched the fellow drop step by step until 
he was quite close to us in the dark, and his breath 
was hot upon us. Swiftly then and silently lie 
entered the place ; and, going to my cabin door, 
he slipped a wedge under it, serving the other 
doors around the big cabin in the same way. The 
success seemed to please him ; he chuckled softly, 
and came again to the ladder, where, with a quick 
motion, Dan brought his pistol-butt (for I had armed 
him) full upon the fellow's forehead, and he went 
down like a dead thing at the foot of the swinging 
table. 

There we left him, after we had bound his 
hands with my scarf ; and with a hurried knock 
got Roderick from his berth. He, in turn, aroused 
his sister, and in five minutes we all stood in the 
big saloon and discussed our plan. 

Dan's whispered tale was this. The watch 
was Paolo's, who had persuaded four stokers and 



THE IRON PIRATE. 147 

six of the forward hands to his opinion. These 
men, the dupes of the second officer, had de- 
termined on this much that the voyage to New 
York should be stopped abruptly, come what 
might, and that our intent should go for no- 
thing. We, being locked in our cabins, were to 
have no voice in the affair ; or, if waked, then 
we should be knocked on the head, and so quieted 
to reason. 

It was a desperate endeavour, wrought of 
fear ; but at that moment the true hands of the 
fo'castle were battened down, and Dan, who had 
seen the thing coming, escaped only by his 
foresight. That night he had felt danger, and 
had wrapped himself up in a tarpaulin, and lain 
concealed on deck. 

As it was, Paolo stood at the door of the 
skipper's room ; there were three men guarding 
the fo'castle, and five at the foot of the hurricane 
deck. One man we had settled with ; but we 
were three, and eight men stood between us and 
the true hands. 

Roderick was the first to get his wits, and plan 
a course. 

" We must act now,'' he said, " before they 
miss their man. They've stopped the engines, 
and we shall drop behind the others. There's 
only one chance, and that is to surprise them. 
Let's rush it and take the odds." 

" You can't rush it,'' I replied ; " they're 



148 THE IRON PIRATE. 

looking for that ; and if one now went forward 
they would shoot him down straight and what's 
to follow ? They come aft, and how can we hold 
them ? But we must get the skipper awake, 
or they'll knock him on the head while he 
sleeps." 

Mary had listened, shivering with the night 
cold ; but she had a word to add, arid its wisdom 
was no matter for dispute. 

" If I went," she said, " what could they do to 
me?" 

We were all silent. 

" I'm going now," she said ; " while I'm talk- 
ing to them they won't be looking for you." 

" Certainly, we could follow up," I added, 
" and might get them down if you held them 
in talk ; but don't you fear ? " 

She laughed, and gave answer by running up 
the companion-way, and standing at the top ; while 
we cocked our pistols, and crept after her. Then 
we lay flat to the deck, as she ran noiselessly 
amidships, and into the very centre of the five 
men. To our astonishment, they gave a great 
howl of terror at the sight of her for it lay 
so dark that she seemed but a thing of shadow 
hovering upon the ship and bolted headlong 
forward ; while we rushed in a body to the hurri- 
cane deck, and faced Paolo. He turned very 
white, and would have opened his lips ; but Dan 
served him as the other ; and hit him with his 



THE IRON PIRATE. 149 

pistol, so that he rolled senseless off the narrow 
bridge, and we heard the thud of his head 
against the iron of the engine-room hatch. He 
had scarce fallen when Mary, with the laugh 
still upon her lips, reeled at the sight of him, 
and fell fainting in my arms. I knocked at the 
skipper's door, but he was already on his feet, 
and passed me to the bridge, where I laid 
the swooning girl on the sofa in the chart- 
room. 

The skipper got the whole situation at the 
first look, and acted in his usual silence. He re- 
entered his own cabin, and came to us again 
with a couple of rifles, which he loaded. We 
were now all crouching together by the 
wheel amidships, for Mary had recovered, and 
insisted that I should leave her, and we waited 
for the heavy black clouds to lift off the moon ; 
but the fore-deck lay dark ahead of us ; and we 
could not tell whether the men who had fled 
had gone below, or were crouching behind the 
galley, and the skylights of the fore-cabins. Nor 
could we hear any sound of them, although the 
skipper hailed them twice. He was for going 
forward at once ; but we held back until the 
light came, and then by the full moon we saw 
dark shadows across the hatch. The men were 
behind the galley, as we thought the eight of 
them. 

The skipper hailed them again. 



150 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" You, Karl, Williams are you coming out 
now, for me to flog you ; or will you swing at 
New York?" 

I could see their whole performance in shadow, 
as they heard the hail. One of them cocked a 
pistol, and the rest huddled more closely to- 
gether. 

" Very well," continued the skipper, ironically 
deliberate. " You've got a couple of planks 
between you and eternity. I'm going to fire 
through that galley." 

He raised his rifle at the word, and let go 
straight at the corner of the light wood erection. 
A dull groan followed, and by the shadow on 
the deck I saw one man fall forward amongst the 
others, who held him 1 up with their shoulders ; 
but his blood ran in a thick stream out to 
the top of the hatchway, and then ran back as 
the ship heaved to the seas. 

For the fifth time the skipper hailed them. 

" There's one down amongst you," he 
said ; " and that's the beginning of it ; I'm 
going to blow that shanty to hell, and you with 
it." 

He raised his rifle, but as he did so one of 
them answered for the first time with his revolver, 
and the bullet sang above our heads. The skip- 
per's shot was quick in reply ; and the wood of 
the shanty flew in splinters as the bullet shivered 
it. A second man sprang to his feet with a 



THE IRON PIRATE. 151 

shout, and then fell across the deck, lying full 
to be seen in the moonlight. 

" That's two of you," continued the skipper, 
as calm as ever he was in Portsmouth harbour ; 
"we'll make it three for luck." But at the 
suggestion they all made a run forward, and lay 
flat right out by the cable. There we could hear 
them blubbering like children. 

The skipper was of a mind to end the thing 
there and then. He sprang down the ladder to 
the deck, and we followed him. They fired three 
shots as we rushed on them ; but the butt ends 
of the two muskets did the rest. Three of them 
went down straight as felled poplars. The others 
fell upon their knees and implored mercy ; and 
they got it, but not until the skipper, who now 
seemed roused to all the fury of great anger, 
set to kicking them lustily, and with no- dis- 
crimination for they all had their full share of 
it. 

We had the other hands up by this, and, 
despite the tragedy and horror of the thing, a 
smile came to me as the true men set to bind- 
ing the others at the skipper's order ; for Piping 
Jack and Planks, and the whole ten of them, fell 
into such a train of swearing as would have done 
your heart good to hear. They got them below at 
the first break of dawn, and the dead they covered ; 
while Paolo, who lay groaning, we carried to a 
cabin in the saloon, and did for his broken head 



152 THE IRON PIRATE. 

that which our elementary knowledge of surgery 
permitted us. 

As the day brought light upon the rising 
sea, I looked to the far horizon, but the rolling 
crests of an empty waste met my gaze. Again 
we were alone. The night's work had lost us the 
welcome company. 



CHAPTER XL 

THE SHIP IX THE BLACK CLOAK. 

THE day that broke was glorious enough for 
Nature's making, but sad upon our ship, in that 
the folly of eight poor fellows should have cost 
the life of two, with three more lying near to 
death in the fo'castle. The sea had risen a good 
deal when we got under steam again, and clouds 
scudded over the sun ; but we set stay-sails and 
jibs, and made a fine pace towards the shores of 
America. It was near noon when we had buried 
the two stokers shot by the skipper, and more 
on in the afternoon before the decks were made 
straight, and the traces of the scuffle quite ob- 
literated. But Paolo lay all day in a delirium, 
and Mary went in and out, bearing a gentle 
hand to the wounded, who alternately cried with 
the pain of it, and begged grace for their in- 
sanity. The second officer's case was worse than 
theirs, and I thought at noon that the total of 
the dead would have been three ; for he raved 
incessantly, crying u Ice, Ice ! " almost with every 
breath, while we had all difficulty possible to 
hold him in his bunk. His words I could not 
get the meaning of ; but I had them later, and 
in circumstances I had never looked for. 

F 



154 THE IRON PIRATE. 

After the hour of lunch the skipper called 
Roderick and me into his cabin, and there he 
discussed the position with us. 

" One thing is clear," he said ; " you've brought 
me on more than a pleasure trip, and, while I 
don't complain, it will be necessary at New York 
for me to know something more or, maybe to 
leave this ship. Last night's work must be made 
plain, of course ; and this second officer of yours 
must stand to his trial. The men I would will- 
ingly let go, for they're no more than lubberly 
fools whose heads have been turned. But one 
thing I now make bold to claim I take this 
yacht straight from here to Sandy Hook ; and 
we poke our noses into no business on the 
way." 

" Of course," said Roderick somewhat sarcas- 
tically, "you've every right to do what you like 
with my ship ; but I seem to remember having 
engaged you to obey my orders." 

" Fair orders and plain sailing," replied Captain 
York, bringing his fist down on the table with 
emphasis ; " not running after war-ships that could 
blow us out of the water without thinking of it. 
Fair orders I took, and fair orders I'll obey." 

" That's quite right, Roderick," I said ; 
" there's no reason now why we shouldn't go 
straight on if we don't meet with anyone to ask 
questions on the way ; of that I'm not so sure, 
though." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 155 

" Nor I," said the skipper meaningly, and 
waiting for me to add more ; but I did not 
mean to gratify him, and we all went out on 
deck again after we had agreed to let him have 
his will. We found the first officer on the bridge, 
looking away to the south-east, where the black 
hull of a steamer was now showing full. I do 
not know that the distant sight of a ship was 
anything to cause remark, but as I looked at 
her, I noticed that she steamed at a fearful speed, 
and she showed no smoke from her funnels. 

" Skipper," I said, " will you look at that hull ? 
Isn't the boat making uncommon headway ? " 

He took a long gaze, and then he spoke 

"You're right. She's going more than twenty 
knots.' 1 

" And straight towards us." 

"As you say." 

" Is there anything remarkable about that ? " 

He took another sight, and when he turned to 
me again he had no colour in his face. 

"I've seen that ship before," he said. 

"Where?" asked Roderick laconically. 

" Five days ago, when she fired a shell into 
the Ocean King" 

" In that case," said I, " there isn't much 
doubt about her intentions : she's chasing us ! " 

" That may or may not be," he replied, as 
he raised his glass again, u but she's the same 
ship, I'll wager my life. Look at the rake of 



156 THE IRON PIRATE. 

her and the lubbers, they've left some of their 
bright metal showing amidships ! " 

He indicated the deck-house by the bridge, 
where my glass showed me a shining spot in 
the cloak of black, for the sun fell upon the 
place, and reflected from it as from a mirror of 
gold. There was no longer any doubt : we were 
pursued by the nameless ship, and, if no help 
fell to us, I shuddered to think what the end 
might be. 

u What are you going to do, skipper ? " asked 
Roderick, as gloom fell upon the three of us ; and 
we stood together, each man afraid to tell the 
others all he thought. 

" What am I going to do?" said he. "I'm 
going to see the boats cleared, and all hands in 
the stoke-hole that have the right there " ; and 
then he sang out, " Stand by ! " and the men 
swarmed up from below, and heard the order 
to clear the boats. They obeyed unquestioningly ; 
but I doubt not that they were no less uneasy 
than we were ; and, as these things cannot be 
concealed, the whisper was soon amongst them 
that the danger lay in the black steamer, which 
had been five days ago the ship of gold. Yet 
they went to the work with a right good will ; 
and presently, when a canopy of our own smoke 
lay over us, and the yacht bounded forward under 
the generosity of the stoking, they set up a great 
cheer spontaneously, and were ready for anything. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 157 

Yet I, myself, could not share their honest 
bravado. The black ship which had been but a 
mark on the horizon now showed her lines fully ; 
there could be no two opinions of her speed, or 
of the way in which she gained upon us. Indeed, 
one could not look upon her advance without 
envy of her form, or of the terrifying manner 
in which she cut the seas. Churning the foam 
until it mounted its banks on each side of her 
great ram, she rode the Atlantic like a beautiful 
yacht, with no vapour of smoke to float above 
her ; and not so much as a sign that any engines 
forced her onward with a velocity unknown, I 
believe, in the whole history of navigation. And 
so she came straight in our wake, and I knew 
that we should have little breathing time before 
we should hear the barking of her guns. 

The skipper did not like to see my idleness 
or this display of inactive indifference. 

" Don't you think you might help ? " he asked. 

u Help what help can I give ? You don't 
suppose we can outsteam them, do you ? " 

" That's a child's question ; they'll run us to 
a stand in four hours any man with one eye 
should see that ; but are you going down like 
a sheep, or will you give them a touch of your 
claws ? I will, so help me Heaven, if there's not 
another hand breathing ! " 

" The skipper's right, by Jove ! " said Roderick ; 
" if it's coming to close quarters, I'll mark one 



158 THE IRON PIRATE. 

man anyway," and with that he tumbled down 
the ladder, and into his cabin. I followed him, 
and got all the arms I could lay hands on, a 
couple of revolvers and a long duck-gun amongst 
the number. There were two rifles the two 
we had used in the trouble with the men in 
the chart-room, and these we brought on deck, 
with all the other pistols we had amongst us. 
We made a distribution of them amongst the 
old hands, giving Dan the duck-gun, which 
pleased him mightily. 

" I generally shoots 'em sittin'," he said, " but 
I'll go for to make a bag, and willin'. You're 
keepin' the Missie out of it, sir ? " 

" Of course ; she's looking after the sick hands 
downstairs. You go forward, Dan, and wait for 
the word, then blaze away your hardest." 

" Ay, ay," replied he ; and I took myself off 
to see after the others, whom we posted in the 
stern to keep a closer look-out ; while Roderick, 
the first officer, and myself went above to the 
bridge. 

The men now fell to work in right good 
earnest. They had all the grit of the old sea-dogs 
in them how, I know not, except in this, that 
their lives had been given to the one mistress. 
The thought of a brush-up put dash and daring 
into them ; they had the boats cleared, the water- 
barrels filled, and the life-belts free, with an 
activity that was remarkable. Then they stood 



THE IRON PIRATE. 159 

to watch the oncoming of the nameless ship ; 
and when we hoisted our ensign, they burst again 
into that hoarse roar of applause which rolled 
across the water-waste, and must have sounded 
as a vaunting mockery to the men behind the 
walls of metal. But they answered us in turn, 
running up an ensign, and a cry came from all 
of us as we saw its colour, for it was the blue 
saltire on a white ground. 

u Russian, or I'm blind," said the skipper, and 
I looked twice and knew that his sight was safe 
to him ; for the nameless ship, which five days 
ago showed her heels under a Chilian mask, now 
made straight towards us in Russian guise. 

" Are you sure she's the same ship ? " asked 
Roderick, when his amazement let him speak. 

" Am I sure that my voice comes out of my 
throat ? " said the old fellow testily. " Did you 
ever see but one hull shaped like that ? And 
now she signals." 

So rapidly had she drawn towards us that 
she was, indeed, then within gun-shot of us. 
After the first enthusiasm the men had stood, 
held under the spell of her amazing approach, 
and no soul had spoken. Even with their plain 
reckoning and hazy notion of it all, they seemed 
conscious of the peril ; but not as I was conscious 
of it, for in my own heart I believed that no man 
amongst us would see to-morrow. There we 
stood alone, with no prospect but to face the 



i6o THE IRON PIRATE. 

men who openly declared war against us. I 
turned my eyes away to the crimson arch which 
marked the sun's decline ; I looked again to the 
east, whence black harbingers of night hung low 
upon the darkened sea ; I searched the horizon 
in every quarter, but it lay barren of ships, and 
soon the last light would leave us, and with the 
ebb of day there was no security against an enemy 
whose intentions were no longer disguised. I 
say no longer disguised but of this the skipper 
made me cognisant. He pointed to the mast 
on the nameless ship, where the Russian ensign 
had hung ten minutes before. It was there no 
longer ; the black flag took its place. 

" Pirates, by the very devil ! " said the skipper ; 
and then he whistled long and loud and shrilly as 
a man who has solved a sum. 

u Gentlemen," he added very slowly, " I said I 
would resign this ship at New York : with your 
permission I will withdraw that. I will sail with 
you wherever you go." 

He shook our hands heartily, as though the 
discovery of our purpose had unclouded his mind. 
But we had no time for fuller understanding, for 
at that moment the air itself seemed torn apart 
by a great concussion, and a shell burst in the 
water no more than fifty yards ahead of us. When 
the knowledge that we were not hit was sure on 
the men's part, they bellowed lustily ; and old Dan 
fired his gun into the air with a great shout. Yet 



THE IRON PIRATE. 161 

we knew that all this was the cheapest bravado ; 
and when the skipper touched the bell to stop our 
engines, I was sure that he was wise. 

"That's the end of it, then," I said. "Well, 
it's pretty ignominious, isn't it, to be shot down 
like fools on our own quarter-deck?" 

"Wait awhile," he answered, looking anxiously 
behind him, where a mist gathered on the sea ; 
" let 'em lower a boat, the lubbers ! " 

By this time the great vessel rode still some 
quarter of a mile away from us ; but the glass 
showed me the men upon her decks, and con- 
spicuous amongst them I saw the form of Captain 
Black standing by the steam steering gear. Others 
below were moving at the davits, so that in a 
small space a launch was riding in a still sea, and 
was making for us. I watched her with nerves 
strained and lips dry ; she seemed to me the 
message boat from Death itself. 

a Stand steady, and wait for me ! " suddenly 
yelled the skipper, his fingers moving nervously, 
and his look continually turning to the banks of 
mist behind us. " When I sing ' Fire ! ' pick your 
men ! " 

The boat was so near that you could see the 
faces in it ; and three of the five I recognised, 
for I had seen them in the room of the Rue 
Joubert. The others were not known to me, 
but had rascally countenances ; and one of them 
was a Chinaman's. The man who was in 



1 62 THE IRON PIRATE. 

command was the fellow " Roaring John " ; and 
when he was within hail he stood and bawled 

" What ship ? " 

" My ship ! " roared back the skipper, again 
looking at the mist-clouds, and my heart gave 
a bound when I read his purpose : we were drift- 
ing into them. 

" And who may you be ? " bawled the fellow 
again, growing more insolent with every advance. 

" I'm one that'll give you the best hiding you 
ever had, if you'll step up here a minute ! " yelled 
the skipper, as cool as a man in Hyde Park. 

" Oh, I guess," said the man ; " you're a tar- 
nation fine talker, ain't you ? But you'll talk 
less when I come aboard you, oh, I reckon ! " 

They came a couple of oars' lengths nearer, 
when Captain York made his reply. There was 
a fine roll of confidence in his voice ; and he 
almost laughed when he cried 

" You're coming aboard, are you ? And which 
of you shall I have the pleasure of kicking first ? " 

The hulking ruffian roared with pleasant 
laughter at the sally. 

" Oh, you're a funny cuss, ain't you, and pretty 
with your jaw, by thunder ! But it's me that 
you'll have the pleasure of speaking to, and right 
quick, my mate, oh, you bet ! " 

" In that case," said the skipper, with his calm- 
ness well at zero ; u in that case you, Dan ! in- 
troduce yourself to the gentleman." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 163 

Dan's reply was instantaneous. He leant well 
over the bulwark, and his cheery old face beamed 
as he bellowed 

" Ahoy, you there that it's me pleasure to be 
runnin' against so far from me old country. Will 
you have it hot, or will you have it the other 
way for a parcel of cold-livered lubbers ? By the 
Old 'Un, how's that for salt 'oss ! " 

He had up with his shot gun, and the long 
ruffian, who had reached forward with his boat- 
hook, got the dose full in his face as it seemed 
to me. At the same moment the skipper called 
" Fire ! " and the heavy crack of the rifles and 
the sharp report of the pistols rang out together. 
The very launch itself seemed to reel under the 
volley ; but the Chinaman gave a great shout, 
and jumped into the sea with the agony of his 
wound ; while two of the others were stretched 
out in death as they sat. 

" Full steam ahead ! " roared Captain York, 
as the nameless ship replied with a shell that 
grazed our chart-room. " Full speed ahead ! " 
Then, shaking his fist to the war-ship, he almost 
screamed " Bested for a parcel of cut-throats, 
by the Powers ! " 

There was no doubt about it at all. The 
moment the yacht answered to the screw the fog 
rolled round us like a sheet, in thick wet clouds, 
steaming damp on the decks ; and twenty yards 
ahead or astern of us you could not see the long 



1 64 THE IRON PIRATE. 

waves themselves. But the sensations of that 
five minutes I shall never forget. Shot after shot 
hissed and splashed ahead of us, behind us ; now 
dull, heavy, yet penetrating, and we knew that 
the ship lay close on our track ; then farther oft 
and deadened, and we hoped that she had lost 
us. Again dreadfully close, so that a shell struck 
the chart-room full, and crushed it into splinters 
not bigger than your finger, then dying away to 
leave the stillness of the mist behind it. An 
awful chase, enduring many minutes ; a chase 
when I went hot and cold, now filled with hope, 
then seeming to stand on the very brink of 
death. But at last the firing ceased. We left 
our course, steaming for some hours due south 
across the very track of the nameless ship ; and 
we went headlong into the fog, the men stand- 
ing yet at their posts, no soul giving a thought 
to the lesser danger that was begotten of our 
speed ; every one of us held in that strange after- 
tension which follows upon calamity. 

When I left the bridge it was midnight. I 
was soaked to the skin and nigh frozen, and the 
water ran even from my hair ; but a hot hand 
was put into mine as I entered the cabin, and 
then a thousand questions rained upon me. 

"I'll tell you by-and-by, Mary. Were you 
very much afraid ? " 

She tossed her head and seemed to think. 

' I was a bit afraid, Mark a a little bit ! " 



THE IRON PIRATE. 165 

" And what did you do all the time ? " 
''I oh, I nursed Paolo he's dying." 
The man truly lay almost at death's door ; but 
his delirium had passed ; and he slept, muttering 
in his dream, " I can't go to the City Black ; you 
know it let me get aboard. Hands off! I told 
you the job was risky " ; and he tossed and turned 
and fell into troubled slumber. And I could not 
help a thought of sorrow, for I feared that he 
would hang if ever we set foot ashore. 

I returned to the saloon sadly, though all was 
now brightness there. We served out grog liberally 
for the forward hands, and broke champagne 
amongst us. 

" Gentlemen," said the skipper, giving us the 
toast, "you owe your lives to the Banks; and, 
please God, I'll see you all in New York before 
three days." 

And he kept his word ; for we sighted Sandy 
Hook, and harm had rome to no man that fought 
the unequal fight. 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE DRINKING HOLE IN THE BOWERY. 

THE beauty of the entrance to the bay of New 
York, the amazing medley of shipping activity and 
glorious scenery, h ive often been described. Even 
to one who comes upon the capital of the New 
World, having seen many cities and many men, 
there is a charm in the sweeping woods and the 
distant heights, in the group of islets, and the 
massive buildings, that is hardly rivalled by the 
fascinations of any other harbour, that of San 
Francisco and the Golden Gates alone excepted. 
If you grant that the mere material of man's 
making is all very new, its power and dignity is 
no less impressive. Nor in any other city of the 
world that I know does the grandeur of the natural 
environment force itself so close to the very gates, 
as in this bay which Hudson claimed, and a Dutch 
colony took possession of so long ago as 1614. 

It was about six o'clock in the evening when we 
brought the Celsis through the Narrows between 
Staten and Long Islands, and passed Forts Wands- 
worth and Hamilton. Then the greater harbour 
before the city itself rolled out upon our view ; and 
as we steamed slowly into it the Customs took 



THE IRON PIRATE. 167 

possession of us, and made their search. It was 
a short business, for we satisfied them that Paolo 
suffered from no malignant disease, although one 
small and singularly objectionable fellow seemed 
suspicious of everything aboard us. I do not wonder 
that he made the men angry, or that Dan had a 
word with him. 

" Look here, sir," he whispered, making pretence 
to great honesty ; " I won't go for to deceive you 
p'r'aps that dog's stuffed wi' di'monds." 

" Do you reckon I'm a fool ? " asked the man. 

" Well," said old Dan, " I never was good at 
calcerlations ; but you search that dog, and p'r'aps 
you'll find somethinV 

The man seemed to think a moment ; but Dan 
looked so very solemn, and Belle came sniffing up 
at the officer's legs ; so he passed his hand over her 
back, and lost some of his leg in return. 

" Didn't I tell you," said Dan, " as you'd get 
something if you searched that dog ? well, don't 
you go for to doubt me word next time we're 
meetin'. Good-day to yer honour. Is there any 
other animal as I could oblige you with ? " 

The officer went off, the men howling with 
laughter ; and a short while after we had made 
fast at the landing-stage, and were ready to go 
ashore. 

Paolo still lay very sick in his cabin, and we 
determined in common charity to take no action 
until he had his health acrain ; but we set the men 



168 THE IRON PIRATE 

to keep a watch about the place, and for ourselves 
went off to dine at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. There, 
before a sumptuous dinner, and with all the novelty 
of the new scene, we nigh forgot all that happened 
since the previous month ; when, without thought 
of adventure or of future, we had gone to Paris with 
the aimless purpose of the idle traveller. And, 
indeed, I did my best to encourage this spirit of 
forgetfulness, since through all the new enjoyment 
I could not but feel that danger surrounded us on 
every hand, and that I was but just embarked on 
that great mission I had undertaken. 

In this mood, when dinner was done, I suggested 
that Roderick should take Mary through the city 
awhile, and that I should get back to the Celsis, 
there to secure what papers were left for me, and to 
arrange, after thought, what my next step in the 
following of Captain Black should be. The skipper 
had friends to see in New York, and agreed that he 
would follow me to the yacht in a couple of hours, 
and that he would meet the others in the hotel 
after they had come from their excursion. This 
plan fell in with my own, and I said " Good-bye " 
cheerfully enough to the three men as I buttoned 
up my coat ; and sent for a coach. If I had known 
then that the next time I should meet them would 
be after weeks of danger and of peril, of sojourn in 
strange places, and of life amongst terrible men ! 

I was driven to the wharf very quickly, and got 
aboard the yacht with no trouble. There was a 



THE IRON PIRATE. 169 

man keeping watch upon her decks ; and Dan had 
been in the sick man's cabin taking drink to him. 
He told me that he was more easy, and spoke with 
the full use of his senses ; and that he had fallen off 
into a comfortable sleep " since an hour." I was 
glad at the news, and went to my own cabin, getting 
my papers, my revolver, and other things that I 
might have need of ashore. 

This work occupied me forty minutes or more ; 
but as I was ready to go back to the others I looked 
into Paolo's cabin, and, somewhat to my surprise, I 
saw that he was dressed, and seemingly about to 
quit the yacht. This discovery set me aglow with 
expectation. If the man were going ashore, whither 
could he go except to his associates, to those who 
were connected with Black and his crew ? Was 
not that the very clue I had been hoping to get 
since I knew that we had a spy aboard us ? Other- 
wise, I might wait a year and hear no more of the 
man or of his work except such tidings as should 
come from the sea. Indeed, my mind was made up 
in a moment : I would follow Paolo, at any risk, 
even of my life. 

This thought sent me forward again into the 
fo'castle, where Dan was. 

" Hist, Dan ! " said I, " give me a man's rig- 
out a jersey and some breeches and a cap quick," 
and, while the old fellow stared and whistled softly, 
I helped to ransack his box ; and in a trice I had 
dressed myself, putting my pistols, my papers, and 



ijo THE IRON PIRATE. 

my money in my new clothes ; but leaving every- 
thing else in a heap on the floor. 

" Dan," I said, " that Italian is going ashore, and 
I'm going to follow him. No, you mustn't come, 
or the thing will be spoilt. Tell the forward look- 
out to see nothing if the fellow passes, and get my 
rubber shoes from my trunk." 

Dan scratched his head again, and must have 
thought that I was qualifying in lunacy ; but he got 
the shoes, and not a moment too soon, for, as I came 
on deck, I saw a shadow on the gangway. The 
man was leaving the yacht at that moment, and I 
followed him, drawing my cap right over my eyes, 
and lurking behind every inch of cover. 

Once out into the city, and having turned two 
or three times to satisfy, himself that he had no one 
after him, Paolo struck for Broadway ; thence with 
staggering gait, the result of his weakness, he made 
straight for the City Hall, at which point he turned 
and so got into Chatham Street and the Bowery. 
At last, after a long walk, and when the man him- 
self was almost failing from the exertion of it, he 
stopped before an open door in the dirtiest of the 
streets through which we had come, and disap- 
peared instantly. I came up to the door almost 
as soon as he had passed through ; and found myself 
before a steep flight of steps, at the bottom of which 
through a glass partition I could see men smoking 
and drinking, and hear them bawling uncouth songs. 

It was a fearful hole, peopled by fearful men ; 



THE IRON PIRATE. 171 

all nations and all sorts of villains \vere represented 
there : low Englishmen, Frenchmen, Russians, even 
niggers and Chinamen ; yet into that hole must I 
go if I would follow Paolo to the end. 

You may forgive me if I hesitated a moment ; 
waited to balance up the odds upon my recognition. 
I might have decided even then that the risk was 
too great, the certainty of discovery too palpable ; 
but at that moment a party of six hulking seamen 
descended the steps before me, and, taking advan- 
tage of the cover of their shoulders, I pulled my 
cap right over my face and passed through the 
swinging door with them into the most dangerous- 
looking place I have ever set foot in. 

The room was long and narrow ; banked its 
whole length by benches that had once been 
covered with red velvet, but now showed torn 
patches and the protruding wool of the stuffing. 
Mirrors were raised from the dado of the ragged 
seats to the frieze of the smoke-blackened ceiling ; 
but they were for the most part cracked, and some 
had lost much of their glass. The accommodation 
for drinkers consisted of marble-topped tables, old 
and worn and stained with the dirt which was 
characteristic everywhere of the foul den ; but there 
was nothing but boards beneath one's feet; and the 
wretched bar at the uppermost end of the chamber 
was no more than a plain deal bin with a high stool 
behind it for the serving man ; he being a great 
negro, grotesquely attired as a man of fashion. 



172 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Indeed, had not the whole place been so threaten- 
ing, I should have paused to laugh at this dusky 
scoundrel, whose white hat sat jauntily on the side 
of his woolly head, and whose well-cut black coat 
was ornamented with a great bunch of white 
flowers. But there was evil in this man's face, 
and in the faces of the others who sat close-packed 
on the faded couches ; and when I had paused for 
a moment to take reckoning of the room, I passed 
quickly to a bench near the door, and there sat 
wedged against a fair-haired seaman, whose look 
stamped him to be a Russian. 

The scene was very new to me. I had heard 
of these drinking dens in that low quarter of New 
York called the Bowery ; but my American friends 
had cautioned me often to have no truck with them 
should I visit their city. They spoke of the poor 
regard for life which prevailed there ; of murders 
committed with an impunity which was as astound- 
ing as it was impossible for the police to suppress ; 
of mysterious disappearances, mysterious alone in 
the lack of knowledge as to the victim's end ; and 
they conjured me, if I would see such things, at 
least to go under the escort of the police. All this 
I had paid scant attention to at the time ; but 
the reality was before me with its grim terror. 
The room was filled with the scum of sea-going 
humanity ; foul smoke from foul pipes floated in 
choking clouds to the dirt-begrimed ceiling ; great 
brown pots of strong drink were emptied as though 



THE IRON PIRATE. 173 

their contents had been milk ; horrid blasphemies 
were uttered as choice dishes of speech ; ribald 
songs rose in giant discord as the spirit moved the 
singers. Now and again, betwixt the shouting and 
the singing, a young girl, whose presence in such a 
company turned my heart sick, played upon a harp, 
while to serve the crew with liquor there was a 
mahogany-faced hag whom the men addressed as 
" Mother Catch." An old crone, bent and doubled 
like a bow, yet vigorous in her work, and shuffling 
with quick steps as she laid down the jugs, or took 
the uncouth orders so freely given to her, she 
seemed to have the eye of a hawk ; nor did I escape 
her glance, for I had not been seated before the 
marble table a moment when she shuffled up to me 
and stood glaring with her shining eyes, the very 
presentment of an old-time witch. 

" Ha ! " she said sharply, " ha ! a sailor boy in 
proper sailor clothes ; ho, little man, will ye wet 
yer throat for a pretty gentleman ? " 

I did not like her mock courtesy, or the way in 
which she pronounced the word "gentleman"; but 
I called for some beer to get her away, and when 
she brought it I remembered that I had no Ameri- 
can money ; but I put an English florin before her 
and waited for the change. She hissed at the sight 
of it like a serpent about to strike. 

" Ha ! Englishman ! and no money ; ho ! ho ! 
ye've got to find it, little man. Mother Catch likes 
you ; but she spits on it ! " 



174 THE IRON PIRATE. 

She spoke the last words in such a loud voice 
that several men near me turned to look, and I 
feared to become the centre of a brawl. This would 
have defeated everything, so I threw her a half- 
sovereign, and, feigning her own savage merriment, 
I said 

" Gold, little woman, English gold ; spit on it 
for luck, little woman " ; and I am bound to say 
that she did so, hobbling out of the room with the 
gold piece clenched in her nut-cracker jaws. Then 
I began to search with my eyes for Paolo ; and, 
although the smoke was very thick, I saw him 
seated near the drinking-bar, a tumbler of brandy 
before him, his arms resting on the edge of the 
counter where the liquor was sold. I judged then 
that he had made no idle visit to this place ; and in 
a quarter of an hour or so my surmise was proved. 
The glass door again swung open ; three men 
entered through it, and I recognised the three of 
them in a moment. The first was the Irishman, 
'' Four Eyes " ; the second- was the lantern-jawed 
Scotsman, who had been addressed in Paris as 
"Dick the Ranter"; the third was "Roaring 
John," into whose face Dan had emptied the 
contents of his duck-gun three days before. The 
ruffian had his mouth all bound in a bloody rag, 
so I hugged myself with the knowledge that he 
had been well hit ; but he was in nowise depressed ; 
and, although the gun had stopped his speech, he 
smacked Paolo on the back when he greeted him, 



THE IRON PIRATE. 175 

and the others soon had their faces in the great 
brown jugs. 

The sight of this company warmed me to the 
work. I seemed to stand on the threshold of dis- 
covery. If only I could follow them hence to 
Black's house the whole aim of my journey would 
be fulfilled. And why not ? I said ; they will leave 
this place and go to their leader some time if not 
now, at least to-morrow ; and why should I lose 
touch with them ? So far it was certain that my 
presence was undiscovered. The hag had suspicion 
of me, but not in their way ; the men were too 
busy, I thought, talking of their own affairs to 
meddle even with their neighbours. Dan knew 
on what business I had left the ship, and would 
quieten Roderick's alarm for me. It was plain that 
fortune had turned kindly eyes on me. 

I sat sipping the beer and smoking an old clay 
pipe, which I found in the breast-pocket of Dan's 
garment, doing these things to escape the remarks 
which the neglect of them would have occasioned, 
when there was some change in the bibulous enter- 
tainment as yet provided for us in the drink-hole. 
The hag raised her voice, worn to a croak with 
long scolding, and shrieked 

"Jack's a-going to dance for ye ! Silence, pretty 
boys. Ho ! ho ! Jack the Fire-Devil, will ye listen, 
then ? And it's help me move the tables ye will, 
Master Dick, or ye're no minister that I took ye 
for. Back, my pretty gentlemen, lest I throw me 



176 THE IRON PIRATE. 

vitriol on ye. Ha ! but they love me like their 
own mother ! " 

She poked round with her stick at the seamen's 
feet, compelling them to fall back, and to make a 
ring for the dancer in the centre ; and I saw with 
no satisfaction that the foul-mouthed villain who 
was called the " Ranter " came to give her his help 
to the work. 

" Hoots, mither," he cried in his broadest Scots, 
" did ye mistake that I was a gentleman frae the 
Hielands o' bonnie Scotland ? And I'll be verra 
glad to throttle some for a wee cup o' yer pretty 
poison. So ho ! ye lubbers, it's an ower-fine dis- 
coors for a summer Sawbath that my boot will 
teach you. Mak' way, mak' way ! '' 

Thus, with unctuous mockery and rough menace, 
the fellow followed the' fury round the room, and 
forced the drunken crew to the wall. He came to 
my seat ; but I buried my head in my hands, lest 
he should have carried the memory of my face from 
Paris ; and he passed, having taken no notice of me 
as I hoped. Soon he had made a great ring for the 
dancing ; and one of the long mirrors opened, show- 
ing a door, whose existence I had not suspected ; 
and a great negro with a flaming firepot entered 
the room. His entry brought applause ; but he 
was a common quack of a performer at the begin- 
ning, for he made pretence to eat the fire, and to 
bring it up again from his vitals. Then, to some 
wild music from a fiddler, he bound coils of the 



.THE IRON PIRATE. 177 

flaming stuff about his head ; and, the lamps being 
lowered, he gave us a weird picture of a man 
dancing, all circled with flame ; working himself 
up until I recalled pictures of the dervishes I had 
seen in the^ old quarter of Cairo. It was an extra- 
ordinary exhibition, and it pleased the men about 
so that they roared with delight. I was watching 
it at last as intent as they were ; but my attention 
was suddenly diverted by the sense that something 
under the marble table at which I was sitting was 
pulling at my leg. I looked down quickly, and saw 
a strange sight : it was the black face of the lad 
Splinters, who had been treated so brutally in Paris. 
He, crouching under the table, was making signs to 
me, earnest, meaning signs, so that without any 
betrayal I leant my head down as though upon my 
hands, and spoke to him 

" What is it, lad ? " I asked in a whisper. 
" What do you want to say ? " 

' Don't stop here, sir ! " he answered in a state 
of great agitation. " They know you, and are going 
to kill you ! " 

He said no more, crawling away at once ; but he 
left me hot with fear. The mad dance was still 
going on, and the room was quite dark save for the 
glow cast by the spirit flames about the huge negro. 
It occurred to me at once that the darkness might 
save me if only I could reach the door unobserved ; 
and I left my seat, and pushed amongst the men, 
passing nearer and nearer to the street, until at last 



1 78 THE IRON PIRATE. 

I was at the very portal itself. Then I saw that a 
change had been made while I had been sitting. 
The doors of glass were wide open, but the way to 
the street* without was no longer clear an iron 
curtain had been drawn across the entrance, and a 
hundred men could not have forced it. 

This was a terrible discovery. It seemed to me 
that the iron door had been closed for an especial 
purpose. I knew, however, that when the dance 
was over some of the audience would wish to go 
out, and so I waited by the curtain until the lamps 
were turned up, and the negro had disappeared. 
The men were then about to push their tables to 
the centre again, but the hag raised her voice and 
cried 

u As you are, my pr.etty gentleman ; it's only 
the first part ye've been treated to. No, no ; ye 
don't have the door drawn till ye've seen yer mother 
dance awhile. Good boys, all of ye, there's work to 
do ; ho ! ho ! work to do, and Mother Catch will 
do it ! " 

At the words " work to do " a strange silence, 
which I did not then understand, fell on the com- 
pany. Somehow, all the men immediately around 
me slunk away, and I found myself standing quite 
alone, with many staring at me. The four men 
whom most I feared had turned their backs, and 
were busy with their mugs ; but the rest of the 
assembly had eyes only for the terrible woman and 
for myself. Presently the discordant music began 



THE IRON PIRATE. 179 

again. The hag, who had been bent double, reared 
herself up with a " Ho ! " after the fashion of a 
Scottish sword-dancer, and began to make a wretched 
shuffle with her feet. Then she moved with a hobble 
and a jig to the far end of the room ; and she called 
out, beginning to come straight down to the door 
whereby I stood. I know not what presentiment 
forewarned me to beware as the creature drew near ; 
but yet I felt the danger, and the throbbing of my 
heart. That I could hope for help amongst such a 
crew was out of the question. I had my revolver 
in my pocket, but had I shown it twenty barrels 
would have answered the folly. There was nothing 
to do but to face the screeching woman ; and this 
I did as the unearthly music became louder, and 
the stillness of the men was speaking in its depth. 

At the last, the old witch, who had danced for 
some moments at a distance of ten paces from the 
spot where I stood, became as one possessed. She 
made a few dreadful antics, uttered a piercing 
shriek, and hurled herself almost on me. In that 
instant I remember seeing the three men with Paolo 
suddenly rise to their feet, while the others in the 
room called out in their excitement. But the hag 
herself drew from her breast something that she 
had concealed there ; and, as she stood within a 
yard of me. she brought it crash upon my head, 
and all my senses left me. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

ASTERN OF THE " LABRADOR. 

COMPLETE unconsciousness is a blessing, I think, 
which comes rarely to us. Sleep, they say, is akin 
to death ; yet I have often questioned if there be 
an absolute void of existence in sleep ; and I am 
sure that in few cases where a blow robs us of sense 
does the brain cease to be active or to bring dreams 
in its working. I have been struck down un- 
conscious twice in my life ; but in each instance I 
have suffered much during the after-days from that 
trouble of mind which is akin to the feverish dream 
of an exhausted system. Horrid sights does the 
brain then bear to us ; terrible situations ; weird 
phantoms known to the opium-eater ; wild struggles 
with unnatural enemies ; wrestlings even for exist- 
ence itself. All these I knew during the days that 
followed my rash visit to the drinking den. How 
long I lay, or where, I know not to this hour ; but 
my dreams were very terrible, and there was a fever 
at my head which the ice of a great lake scarce 
could have cooled. Often I would know that I 
had consciousness, and yet I could not move hand 
or foot, so that the terror moved me to frenzies of 
agony, though my lips were sealed, and I felt myself 



THE IRON PIRATE. 181 

passing to death. Or I would live again through 
the night when Martin Hall died, and from the 
boat where I watched the holocaust, I climbed to 
the shrouds of the cutter, and stood with my poor 
friend in the very shelter of the spreading flames. 
Or I struggled with Black, having hunted him to 
his own quarter-deck, and there with great force of 
men I sought to lay hands on him ; but he escaped 
me with a mocking laugh, and when I looked again 
the deck was empty. 

For short moments the delirium must have left 
me. Once I opened my eyes, and knew that the 
sun shone upon me, and that the breeze which 
cooled my forehead blew from the sea ; but my 
fatigue was so great that I fell asleep in the next 
instant, and enjoyed pure rest during many hours. 
When I regained consciousness for the second time, 
it was because rain beat upon my face, a drizzling 
warm rain of late summer, and there was spray from 
a fresh sea. For some minutes I set myself to ask 
where I was ; but I knew that I was bound at the 
left hand and at my feet, and, to my unutterable 
astonishment, when I raised my head, I saw that I 
lay in an open boat which was moving very slowly, 
but my feet were towards the stern of it, and, as my 
head lay below the level of the gunwale, I could 
see nothing of the power which moved the boat or 
of the scene about us. 

It was a long time before my throbbing head 
let me put together a chain of thought to account 



1 82 THE IRON PIRATE. 

for my position. The scene at the drinking den 
would not at first come back to me, think as I 
would ; but when it did, the clue which was lack- 
ing came with it. There could be no doubt that I 
had walked into a trap, and that the hag who had 
struck me had been in the pay of Paolo and his 
crew. These men must have taken me as I lay, 
and so brought me to this boat ; but what time had 
intervened, or where I was, I knew no better than 
the dead. Only this was sure, that I was in the 
hands of one of the greatest scoundrels living, and 
that, if his past were any precedent, my hours of 
life would be few. 

I cannot tell you why it was, but, strange to say, 
this reflection did not give me very great alarm at 
the moment. Perhaps I suffered too much from 
bodily weakness, and would have welcomed any 
release, even death ; perhaps I was buoyed up with 
that eternal hope which bears its most generous 
blossom in the springtime of life. In either case, I 
put away the thought of danger, and set to the task 
of conning my position a little more closely. The 
boat in which I lay was painted white, and was of 
elegant build. She had all the fine lines of a yacht's 
jolly-boat ; and when I raised my head I could see 
that her fittings had been put in only at great 
expense. She was not a large boat, but the centre 
seat had been removed from her to let me lie on a 
tarpaulin which covered her keel, and the stern 
seat had been used to bind my feet. A second 



THE IRON PIRATE. 183 

tarpaulin, folded twice, had been propped under 
my head, but my left hand was bound close to the 
boat thwart, and there was a rope doubled round 
my right forearm so that I could not raise myself 
an inch, though my right hand was free. The 
meaning of this apparent neglect I soon learnt. 
There was a flask on the edge of the tarpaulin 
which supported my head, and by it half a dozen 
rather fine captain's biscuits. I had a prodigious 
thirst on me, and I drank from the flask ; but 
found it to contain weak brandy, and would will- 
ingly have exchanged thrice its contents for a long 
draught of pure water. But the biscuits I could 
not touch ; and I began to be chilled with the rain 
which fell copiously, and with the sea which sent 
spray in fountains upon my body. 

Up to this time, I had heard no sound of human 
voices, but the silence was broken at last by a shout, 
and the boat ceased to move. 

" All hands, make sail ! " cried someone, ap- 
parently above me ; and after that I heard the 
" yo-heave " of the men hauling, as I judged, at a 
main-sail. The second order, " Sheets home ! " 
proved to me that I was behind a sailing ship, 
perhaps a yacht which these men had secured, as 
they got La France and burnt her. I shuddered 
at the second thought, and my head began to burn 
again despite the wet. Did they mean to leave me 
there until the end of it, when the cold and my 
wound should do their work ? Had they forgotten 



1 84 THE IRON PIRATE. 

me ? Had they any reason for keeping me alive ? 
My questions were in part answered by a sudden 
shout from the deck of the ship. 

" Ho, Bill, is the young un gone ? " 

" No, my hearty, he's gone about ! " 

" Getting his spirits damped, I reckon." 

" Some, you bet." 

And then I heard a voice I knew, the voice of 
the Irishman, "Four-Eyes." 

" Is it the boi ye're mindin', bedad ? " 

u Ay, sir, he's moved a point." 

"The poor divil. Throw him a sheet, one av 
yer; it's meself that's not bringing the guv'ner a 
dead body when he wants a live one, be Saint 
Pathrick ! " 

They tried to throw me a sheet as the man had 
ordered, but we had begun to move rapidly again, 
and I heard it fall in the water by my head. Though 
there was more hailing, the thud of the choppy sea 
against the boat forbade any more hearing, and the 
sheet never reached me. Yet the men had told 
me something with their words, and I pondered 
long on the remark of the Irishman, that the 
" guv'ner " wanted me alive. It explained much ; 
and it put beyond doubt the reason why I had not 
been killed in the drinking den. It was quite clear 
that my life was safe from these men until they 
reached their chief; but where he was I had no 
notion, except he were on the nameless ship ; and, 
if that were so, to the nameless ship I was going 



THE IRON PIRATE. 185 

that ship of horror and of mystery. Nor could I 
remember anything in what I knew of Captain 
Black to lead me to the hope that such a voyage 
was other than one to death, and perhaps to that 
which might be worse than death itself. 

When this strange procession had lasted about 
an hour, the rain ceased and the sun shone again 
with 'renewed power, drying my clothes upon me 
and giving me prodigious thirst. I struggled to 
reach the flask, and in doing so I found that the 
ropes binding my right arm were tied with common 
hitches, such as any sailor could force ; and my 
experience as a yachtsman let me get free of them 
with very little trouble. I did not sit up at once, 
for I feared to be seen from the decks ; but I turned 
my head to look at the boat which towed me, and 
saw that she was a barque-rigged yacht after the 
American fashion ; her name Labrador being con- 
spicuous across her stern. My boat, which was no 
larger than I had thought, was towed by a double 
hawser ; but no man watched me from the poop, 
and I lay down again reassured. The hope of 
escape was already in my head, for I judged that 
we could not be far out from New York, although 

O 

no land was visible on the horizon. It occurred 
to me that if they would only let me be until night 
I could get my left hand and my feet free ; and, as 
the hawser was passed through a ring at the bow, 
I needed but a knife to complete the business. 
But I had no knife, for a search in my pockets 
G 



1 86 THE IRON PIRATE. 

proved that I had been relieved of all my valuables 
and trifles ; and I knew that another way must be 
found, and that ingenuity alone would help me. 
So I sat thinking ; and all the long afternoon I 
knew it was afternoon, as I saw the sun sinking 
in the horizon and heard the bells, moreover I 
examined such devices as came to me, only to reject 
them and to seek for others. * 

Towards the second bell in the second " dog " 
there was a change in the monotony of the scene. 
I heard an order to heave the barque to, and 
presently I made haste to put the ropes back in 
their places and to await the happening. I felt all 
motion cease, and then someone hauling at the- 
hawser, so that the jolly-boat was pulled against 
the side of the bigger ship ; and, looking up, I saw 
half-a-dozen of Black's gang watching me from the 
quarter-deck. Then a ladder was put 'over the 
bulwark, and Four-Eyes himself cried out not in 
an unkindly tone 

" Gi-me the soop, bhoys, and let's get it in him ; 
begorra, the divil '11 have him afore the skipper if 
it's no mate you're givin' him ! " 

He came down the ladder with a great can of 
steaming stuff; and the sea having fallen away 
with the sun to a dead calm, he stepped off the 
ladder to the stern seat, and then bent over me. 
But I saw this only, that he had a knife in his 
belt ; and I made up my mind in a moment to 
get it from him. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 187 

" The young 'un from Paris," he cried, as he 
took a long look at rfie, " and near to axin' for a 
priest, by the houly saints ; but I was tellin' ye to 
stop where ye was, and it's no thanks ye were 
giving me. Bedad, and a pretty place ye're going 
to, sorr, at your own wish the divil knows what's 
the end av it but sup a bit, for it's fastin' ye are 
by the luk av ye, and long gone at that ! " 

Kindly words he gave me ; and he held to the 
rope with one hand while he put the can of hot 
stuff to my lips with the other. I drank half of it 
with great gulps, feeling the warmth spread through 
my body to my very toes as the broth went down ; 
and a great hope consoled me, for I had his knife, 
having snatched it from him when first he stooped, 
and it lay in the tarpaulin beneath me. The good 
luck of the theft made me quick to empty the pot 
of gravy ; and when I had returned the can, Four- 
Eyes went over the side again, and the yacht 
moved onward lazily in the softest of breezes from 
the west. But my boat lay behind her again ; and 
I did not stir from my restful position until it was 
full dark ; though the going down of the sun had 
left a clear night and a zenith richly set with a 
shimmer of stars, which did not give any great 
promise to my thoughts of coming freedom. 

When I deemed that I had waited long enough, 
and had assured myself that the later night would 
not be more auspicious for the attempt, I cut away 
the remaining ropes at my feet, and crouched 



1 88 THE IRON PIRATE. 

unbound in the boat. There was good watch upon 
the ship, I knew, for I could "hear the u All's well ! " 
as the bells were struck, and the passing of the 
orders from the poop to the fo'castle. This did not 
deter me ; and, being determined to stake all rather 
than face the terrors of the nameless ship, I crawled 
to the bow, and began to cut the strands of the 
hawser one by one. The rope was very thick and 
hard, and the knife which I had stolen was blunt, 
so that the work was prodigiously slow and difficult ; 
and when I had been at it for half an hour or more, 
I was interrupted in a way that sent my heart 
almost into my mouth. There was a man standing 
on the poop of the Labrador, and he seemed to be 
watching my occupation. I threw myself flat in- 
stantly, and listened to his hail. 

"Ahoy, there, young 'un, are you getting a 
chill ? " cried a bluff voice, which I did not recog- 
nise ; but presently the man Four-Eyes hailed also, 
and I heard him say 

" If it's dead ye are, will ye be sending word up 
to us?" and, seeing the mood, I bawled with all my 
strength 

" I'm all right ; but I'll call out for some more 
of that soup of yours just now." 

They gave a great shout, and one of them 
said 

" You ken calcerlate ez you will be gettin' it all 
nice en' hot when you meet the old 'un in the 
mornin' '' ; and the crew roared with laughter at 



THE IRON PIRATE. 189 

the sally, and disappeared one by one from the 
poop. Then I whipped out my knife again, and 
with a few vigorous strokes I cut the rope clean 
through, and felt my boat go swirling away on the 
backwash. It was a moment of supreme excite- 
ment, and I lay quite flat, waiting to hear if I were 
missed ; but I heard no sound, and looking round 
presently, I saw the yacht away a mile, and I knew 
that I was a free man. 

The delight of the enterprise would have been 
intense if my unexpected success had not allowed 
me to forget one thing when I had made my 
hasty plans. There were no oars in the boat. The 
terrible truth came to me as I fixed the seat 
and prepared to put greater distance between the 
Labrador and myself. But one look round con- 
vinced me that the position was hopeless. With 
the exception of the tarpaulins, the seats, and the 
tiller, the boat was unfurnished. As I thought 
of these things, and remembered that I was some 
hundreds of miles from land, that I had a couple 
of biscuits for food, and a half a flask of brandy 
and water for drink, I experienced a terror greater 
than any I have known ; and so weak was I with 
sickness and so low with the disappointment ot 
it, that I put my head between my hands and 
sobbed like a great child who had known a child- 
ish sorrow. Only when the tears had dried upon 
my face, and there was that after-sense of resig- 
nation which follows a nervous outbreak, did I 



1 90 THE IRON PIRATE. % 

upbraid myself for a weakling, and set to think 
out plans for my release. I had no compass, but, 
taking the north through the " pointers," I tried 
to make out the course in which I was drifting ; 
yet this, I must confess, was a hopeless task. I 
thought that the boat was being carried by a 
steady current ; yet whether the current set to- 
wards the land or away from it, I could not 
tell. 

When a couple of hours had passed, and I 
could see the yacht no longer, I took a new con- 
solation in the thought that I must, after all, be 
in the track of steamers bound out from, or to, 
New York ; and in this hope I covered myself 
in the tarpaulins and lay down again to shield 
myself from the wind which blew with much 
sharpness as the night grew. I did not sleep, 
but lay half-dazed for an hour or more, and was 
roused only at a curious light which flashed 
above me in the sky. Its first aspect led me to 
the conclusion that I saw a reflection of the 
Aurora ; but the second flash altered the opinion. 
The light was clearly focussed, being a volume 
of intensely bright, white rays which passed right 
above me with slow and guided motion, and 
then stopped altogether, almost fixed upon the 
jolly-boat. I knew then what it was, and I sat 
up to see the great beams of a man-of-war's 
search-light, showing an arc of the water almost 
as clear as by the sun's power. The vessel itself 



THE IRON PIRATE. 191 

I could not make out ; but I feared at once that 
fate had sent me straight to the nameless ship ; 
and that the very misfortune I had thought to 
have undone was brought home to me. Yet I 
could not take one step to defend myself, and 
must perforce drift on, to what end I knew not. 
The light shone in all its brightness for some 
five minutes ; then it died away suddenly, and 
on the spot whence it had come I could just 
distinguish the dark hull of a steamer. To my 
vast consolation, she had two funnels and three 
masts, and I .remembered that Black's boat had 
but one funnel and two masts, so that good for- 
tune seemed to have come to me at last. Over- 
delighted with the discovery, I stood up at my 
risk in the jolly-boat and waved my arms wildly ; 
when, as if in answer, the search-light flashed out 
again and bathed me in its refulgent beams. 
Some moments, long moments to me, passed in 
feverish conjecture ; and then in the pathway 
of the light I saw in all distinctness the out- 
line of a long-boat, fully manned, and she was 
coming straight to me. There could be no more 
doubt of it ; I had passed through much suffering, 
but it was all child's play to the " might have 
been " ; and in the reaction I laughed aloud like 
an hysterical woman, and blushed to remember 
those great tears which had rolled over my face 
not an hour gone. And all the time I never 
took my eyes from the boat ; but feasted on it as 



1 92 THE IRON PIRATE. 

a beggar-child feasts in imagination on the gauds 
of a groaning table. Its progress seemed slow, 
wofully slow ; the men in it made me no manner 
of signal, never gave an answer to my erratic 
hand-waving ; ' but, what was of more conse- 
quence, they came in a bee-line towards me, and 
the radiating light never moved once whilst 
they rowed. In the end, I myself broke the 
silence, shouting lustily to them, but getting no 
answer until I had repeated the call thrice. The 
fourth cry, loud and in something desperate, 
brought the response so eagerly awaited ; but 
when I recognised the voice of him who then 
hailed me I fell down again in my boat with a 
heart-stricken burst of sorrow, for the voice was 
the Irishman's, and Four-Eyes spoke 

" Avast hailin', young 'un,'' he cried ; " we 
ain't agoin' to part along o' your society no more, 
don't you be frettin'." 

They dragged me into their boat, and taking 
my own in tow, they rowed rapidly to the dis- 
tant steamer, on whose deck I stood presently ; 
but not without profound fear, for I knew that at 
last I was a prisoner on the nameless ship. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

A CABIN" IX SCARLET. 

THERE was light from six lanterns, held by giant 
negroes, to greet me when I had mounted the 
ladder and was at last on the deck of the great 
ship ; but none of the men spoke a word, nor 
could I see their faces. Of those who had 
brought me from the jolly-boat, I recognised two 
besides " Four-Eyes " as men whom I had seen 
in Paris, but the Irishman appeared to be the 
captain of them ; and, in lack of other leader, 
he spoke when all were aboard, but it was in a 
monosyllable. '' Aft ! " he said, looking round to 
see if anyone else were near ; and one of them 
silently touched me upon the shoulder, and I 
followed him along a narrow strip of iron deck, 
past a great turret which reared itself above 
me, and again by the covered forms of quick- 
firing guns. We descended a short ladder to a 
lower deck ; and so to the companion way, and to a 
narrow passage in which were many doors. One 
of these he opened, and motioned me to enter, 
when the door was closed noiselessly behind me, 
and I found myself alone. 

My first feeling was one of intense surprise, 
o* 



194 THE IRON PIRATE. 

I had looked to enter a prison ; but, if that 
were a prison, then were lack of liberty shorn 
of half its terrors. The cabin was not large, 
but one more artistic in effect was never built. 
Hung all round with poppy-coloured silk, the 
same material made curtains for the bunk 
which seemed of unusual size, and furnished with 
sleep-bespeaking mattresses. It was employed 
also for the cushions and covering of the arm- 
chair and the couch, and to drape the dressing- 
glass and basin which were in the left-hand 
corner. It seemed, indeed, that the whole room 
was a harmony in scarlet, with a scarlet ceiling 
and scarlet hangings ; but the luxury of it was 
unmistakable, and the feet sank above the ankles 
in the soft Indian rug, which was ornate with 
the quaint mosaic-like workings and penetrating 
colours of all Eastern tapestry. For light, there 
was an arc-lamp, veiled with gauze of the faintest 
yellow ; and upon the table in the centre stood a 
decanter of wine and a box of cigars. The room 
would have been perfect but for a horrid blot 
upon it a blot which stared at me from the 
outer wall with bloodshot eyes and hideous visage. 
It was the picture of a man's head that had been 
severed from the body ; and was repulsive enough 
to have been painted by Wiertz himself. The 
picture almost terrified me, but I thought, if no 
worse harm befall me what odds ? and I sat down 
all wondering and dazed, and drew a cigar from 



THE IRON PIRATE. 195 

the box upon the table. The wine, of which I 
drank nearly a tumblerful, put new courage of a 
sort into me ; and so, troubled and amazed, I 
began to ask myself what the proceeding 
meant, or what the portent of it all could possibly 
be. 

My conclusion was, when I thought the whole 
thing out, that the man Black could be showing 
me this marked consideration only for some 
motive of self-interest. It was evident that he 
had been aware of my intention to follow him 
from the moment when Roderick purchased our 
new steam-yacht. He had put one of his own 
men craftily upon the ship to watch us, and had 
made a bold attempt to deal with us in mid- 
Atlantic. Foiled there, he had taken advantage 
of my folly in entering such a place as the 
Bowery, and had given orders that I should be 
carried to his own ship for I knew then that 
the strange craft he owned was capable of many 
disguises and should be carried alive. Why 
alive, if not that he might learn all about me, 
or that a more dreadful fate than mere death 
should be mine ? I had seen the appalling end 
of poor Hall, the merciless severity with which 
his death had been compassed : why should I 
expect more gentle usage or other recompense ? 
If ever man had been trapped, I had been ; and, 
beneath all my placid self-restraint, I felt that 
my life was not worth an hour's nay, perhaps 



196 THE IRON PIRATE. 

ten minutes' purchase. It was as if I had been 
tafcen clean out of the world with no man to 
extend me a helping hand. Roderick, truly, 
would move heaven and earth to reach me, but 
what could he hope for against such a crew ; or 
how should I expect to be alive when he brought 
his attempts to a head ? And I thought of him 
with deep feelings of friendship at that moment, 
and wondered what Mary would say. She will 
be serious, I argued, for the first time in her 
life, and they will know much anxiety. Yet that 
must be in the floating tomb where I lay I 
could hope to send no word to the living world 
which I had left. 

I had smoked one cigar in the cabin, listen- 
ing to the tremendous throb of the ship's screws, 
and the swish of the sea as we cleaved it, when 
the electric light went out, and I was left in 
darkness. The sudden change gave me some 
alarm, and I cocked my revolver, being resolute 
to account for one man at least, if any attempt 
were made upon me ; but when I had sat quite 
still for some half-an-hour there was no noise of 
movement save on the deck above, and my own 
cabin remained as still as the grave. It appeared 
that I was to be left unmolested for that night 
at any rate ; and, being something of a philo- 
sopher, I waited for another hour or so, and find- 
ing that no one came near me, 1 undressed and 
lay down in one of the most seductive beds 



THE IRON PIRATE. 197 

I have met with at sea. I did, indeed, take 
the precaution of putting my Colt under the 
pillow ; but I was so weary and fatigued with 
my sufferings in the open boat that I fell asleep 
at once, and must have slept for many howrs. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE PRISON OF STEEL. 

I AWOKE in the day, but at what hour of it I know 
not. The red curtains opposite to my bunk were 
drawn back, admitting dull light from a port-hole 
through which I could look upon a tumbling sea, 
and a sky all girt with rain-clouds. But I had 
not been awake five seconds when I saw thqt 
my arm-chair was occupied by a man who did 
not look more than thirty-years old, and was 
dressed with all the scrupulous neatness of a 
thorough-going yachtsman. He was wearing a 
peaked cloth cap with a gold eagle upon it, a 
short jacket of blue serge, with ample trousers 
to match, and a neat pair of brown shoes ; 
while his linen would have touched the heart 
even of the most hardened blanchisscuse of the 
city. He had a bright, open face, marred only 
by a peculiarly irritating movement of the eye, 
which told of a nervous disposition ; and there 
was something refined and polished in his voice, 
which I heard almost at once. 

" Good-morning to you," he said ; " I hope 
you have slept well ? " 



THE IRON PIRATE. 199 

u I have never slept better ; it must be twelve 
o'clock, isn't it ? " 

" It's exactly half-past three, American time. 
I didn't wake you before, because sleep is the best 
medicine in your case. I'm a doctor, you know." 

'' Oh I you're the physician-in-ordinary to the 
crew, I suppose ; you must see a good deal of 
practice." 

He looked rather surprised at my meaning 
remark, and then said quite calmly, u Yes, I write 
a good many death certificates ; who knows, I 
may even do that service for you ? " 

It was said half-mockingly, half-threateningly ; 
but it brought home to me at once the situation 
in which I was ; and I must have become serious, 
which he saw, and endeavoured to turn me to a 
lighter mood. 

" You must be hungry," he continued ; " I 
will ring for breakfast ; and, if you would take 
a tub, your bathroom is here." 

He opened the door in the passage, and led 
the way to a cabin furnished with marble and 
brass fittings, wherein was a full-sized bath and 
all the appurtenances for dressing. I took a 
bath, and found him waiting for me when I 
had finished. We returned to the scarlet room, 
and there spread upon the table was a meal 
worthy of Delmonico's. There was coffee served 
with thick cream ; there were choice dishes of 
meat, game pies, new rolls, fruit, and the whole 



^oo THE IRON PIRATE. 

was finished with ices and bon-bons in the true 
American fashion. My new friend, the doctor, 
said nothing as I ate ; but when the repast was 
removed he pushed the cigars to me, and, taking 
one himself, he began to talk at once. 

u I regret," he said, " that I cannot supply 
you with a morning newspaper ; but the latest 
journal that I can lend you is a copy of the 
New York World of Saturday last. There is a 
passage in it which may interest you." 

The paper was folded and marked in a certain 
spot. I read it with blank amazement, for it 
was a full account of the nameless ship's attack 
upon the American cruiser and the Ocean King. 
The paper stated shortly that both ships had been 
impudently stopped in mid-Atlantic by a big 
war-vessel flying the Chilian flag ; that the 
cruiser had been seriously damaged and had 
lost twenty of her men ; while a shell had 
been fired into the fo'castle of the passenger 
ship and two of her men killed, with other such 
details as you know. The matter was the sub- 
ject of a profound sensation, not only in America, 
but throughout the world. The Chilian Govern- 
ment had been approached at once, but had 
repudiated all knowledge of the mysterious ship. 
Meanwhile war-vessels from England, America, 
and from France had set out to scour the seas 
and bring such intelligence as they could. The 
whole account concluded with the rumour that 



THE IRON PIRATE. 201 

a gentleman in Xew York had knowledge of the 
affair, and would at once be interviewed, with 
the result, it was hoped, of disclosing that which 
would be one of the sensations of the century. 

When 1 had put the paper down, the doctor, 
who followed me with his eyes, said laugh- 
ingly 

44 You see that interview was unfortunately 
interrupted. You are the gentleman with the 
full particulars, for we know that your friend 
Stewart plays a very small part in the affair. 
"Without your energy, I think I may say that 
he is little less than a fool.'' 

44 Hardly that, as you may yet discover," I 
said, seeing instantly which way safety lay ; " he- 
knows as much as 1 know." 

" Which is not very much after all, is it ? but 
that we must have fuller knowledge of. I am here 
to ask you to write accurately for us a complete 
account of every step you have taken in this 
matter since you were fool enough to follow 
Martin Hall, and poke your nose into business 
which did not concern you. As you know, Hall 
was punished in the Channel : you saw his end, 
as I hear from my comrade Paolo. We have 
spared you, and may yet spare you, if you do 
absolutely what we tell you." 

" And otherv. 

He smiled cruelly, and his eyes danced when 
he answered- 



202 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" Otherwise, you would give all you possessed 
if I would shoot you now as you sit ; but don't 
let us look at it that way. You must see that 
your case is utterly hopeless ; you will never 
look again on any civilised city, or see the face 
of a man you have known. For all purposes 
you are as dead as though twenty feet of earth 
covered you. If you would still have life, not 
altogether under unfavourable conditions, you 
have but to ask for pen, ink, and paper and to 
make yourself one of us." 

"That I will never do ! " 

" Oh, you say that now ; but we shall give 
you some days to think of it. Let me advise 
you to be a man of common sense, and not to 
run your head against a stone wall. Believe 
me, we are a curious company ; I don't suppose 
there is a man aboard us who has not some 
deaths to his account. I am wanted for a mur- 
der in Shropshire ; but I am giving your people 
a little trouble. Ha ! ha ! " 

This was said with such a fearful laugh that 
I shrank back from the man, who restrained 
himself with an effort as he rose to go ; but as 
he stood at the door, he said 

" We are now bound on a four-days' voyage. 
During these four days, you need fear nothing. 
We should have paid off our score in the At- 
lantic, and sent you and your fellows to join 
other intrusive friends of ours, if we had not 



THE IRON PIRATE. 203 

wished to get this little account of yours. So 
don't disturb yourself unnecessarily until Captain 
Black puts the question to you. Then, if you 
are foolish, you had better feed your courage. I 
have seen stronger men than you who have 
cried out for death when we had but put our 
fingers on them ; and we shall do you full honour 
in fact, we shall treat you royally." 

When he was gone, I thought that he had 
spoken with truth. To all my friends I was as 
dead as though twenty feet of earth lay on my 
body. What hope had I, shut in that grave of 
steel ? What friend could hear me, battened in 
that prison on the sea ? Should I tell the men 
frankly all I knew, and crave their mercy, or 
should I seek hope in the pretence that Roderick 
had information which might yet be fatal to 
them ? I thought the position out, and this 
was the sum of it. These men had a home 
somewhere. If I had known where that home 
was, and had communicated the knowledge to 
Roderick, then the Governments of Europe 
could bring the ruffian crew to book with 
little difficulty. That, without a doubt was the 
question Black would put to me. He would wish 
to know all I knew ; but, if I refused to tell him, 
he would proceed to extremes, and I shuddered 
when I remembered what his extremes had been 
in the case of Hall. The man undoubtedly had 
conceived a scheme daring beyond any known 



204 1*HE IRON PIRATE. 

in the nineteenth century. The knowledge of 
his hiding-place was the key to his safety. If 
Roderick had it, then, indeed, I might have 
looked for life ; but I knew that Hall had never 
discovered it, and what hope had Roderick where 
the greater skill had failed ? 

This consideration led me to one conclusion. 
I would pretend that I had some knowledge, and 
that my friends had it too. If that did not save 
my life, God alone could help me, and the home 
of Captain Black would be my grave. Nor did 
I know in any case that I had much expecta- 
tion of life in such surroundings or in such 
company. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

NORTHWARD H O ! 

DURING some days I saw no more of the doctor, 
or of anyone about the ship save an old negro, 
who became my servant. He was not an un- 
kindly-looking man, being of a great age, and 
somewhat feeble in his actions ; but he never 
opened his lips when I questioned him, and gave 
a plain " Yes " or " No " to any demand. Those 
days would have been monotonous, had it not 
been for the ever-present sense of coming danger, 
of a future dark and threatening, likely to be 
fruitful in trial and in peril. Each morning 
at an early hour the age-worn black entered my 
cabin and told me that my bath was ready. 
When I was dressed, a breakfast, generous in 
quality and in quantity, was set upon my cabin 
table. At one o'clock luncheon of like excellence 
was served ; and again at five o'clock and at 
eight, tea and dinner. Some thought evidently 
was given to my condition, for on the second 
morning I found clean linen with a neat suit of 
blue serge awaiting me in the bathroom, and 
when I had breakfasted, the black brought a 
parcel of books to me ; I found amongst them, 



206 THE IRON PIRATE. 

to my satisfaction, several light works by Bret 
Harte, Mark Twain, and Max Adeler, as well as 
more solid literary food. The books saved me 
from much of that foreboding which I should 
have known wanting them, and after the first 
fears had passed I spent the hours in reading 
or looking through the port-hole over the 
deserted waste of a fretful sea. I had hoped 
to learn something of our destination from this 
diligent watching of the waves ; but for the first 
forty hours, at any rate, I saw nothing not so 
much as a small ship though it felt much colder ; 
and again on the third day the lower tempera- 
ture was yet more marked, so that I welcomed 
fresh and warmer clothing which the negro 
brought me for my , bed ; and observed with 
satisfaction that there were means within the 
ship for heating the cabin during the day- 
time. 

It must have been on the fourth day after 
my capture that the nameless ship, which 
hitherto had not been speeding at an abnormal 
pace, began to go very fast, the rush of water 
from the head of her rising frequently above 
my port, and permitting but rare views of the 
distant horizon. The greater speed was sustained 
during that day until the first dog-watch, when 
I was disturbed in my reading by the conscious- 
ness that the ship had stopped, and that there 
was great agitation on deck. I looked from my 



THE IRON PIRATE. 207 

window and observed the cause of the confusion, 
for there, ahead of us a mile or more, was one 
of the largest icebergs I have ever seen. The 
mighty mass, from whose sides the water was 
rushing as in little cataracts, towered above the 
sea to a height of four or five hundred feet, 
rising up in three snow-white pinnacles which 
caught the crimson light of the sinking sun 
and gave it back in prismatic hues, all dazzling 
and beautiful. As a great island of ice, all rich 
in waving colour and superb majesty, the berg 
passed on, and the screw of the steamer was 
heard again. I watched intently, hoping to 
see other bergs, or, indeed, any ships that should 
tell me how far we had gone towards the north ; 
but the night fell suddenly, and the negro 
served dinner, asking me if I had warmth 
enough ? My curt answer seemed to astonish 
him ; but the truth was that I was thinking 
of the man Paolo's words when sick upon my own 
ship. He had cried, " Ice, ice," more than once 
in his delirium ; but none of us then had the 
meaning of his cry. Yet I had it, and with 
it a notion of the second secret of Captain 
Black. For surely he was running to hiding ; 
and his hiding-place lay to the north, far above 
the course even of Canadian-bound vessels, as I 
knew by the number of da) - s we had been 
steaming. 

This new surmise on strange openings did 



208 THE IRON PIRATE. 

not in any way combat the terror which visited 
me so often in that floating prison. Every day, 
indeed, seemed to take me farther from humanity, 
from friends, from the lands and the peoples of 
civilisation. Every day confirmed me in the 
thought that I was hopelessly in this man's 
grip, the victim of his mercy, or his rigour ; 
that none would know of my end when that 
end should come ; no man say " God help you ! " 
when at last the fellow should show his teeth. 
Such dire communings robbed me of my sleep 
at night ; led me to books whose pages passed 
blurred before me ; made me start at every rap 
upon the cabin door ; brought me to fear death 
even in the very food I ate. Yet during the 
week I was a prisoner on the ship no harm of 
any sort befell me. I was treated with the hos- 
pitality of a great mansion, served with all I 
asked, unmolested save for the doctor's threat. 

And so the time passed, the weather growing 
colder day by day, the bergs more frequent about 
my windows ; until on the evening of the 
seventh day the ship stopped suddenly, and I 
heard the anchor let go. This was late in the 
watch, at the time when I was in the habit of 
going to bed ; but hearing great movement and 
business on the deck I sat still, waiting for what 
should come ; and after the lapse of an hour or 
more I found that we were moving very slowly 
again, and with but occasional movements of the 



THE IRON PIRATE. 209 

screw. I opened my port, and could near loud 
shoutings from above, and although there was 
no light of the moon, I could see enough to con- 
clude that we were passing by a great wall of rock, 
and so into some harbour or basin. 

The work of mooring the ship was not a long 
one when once we had come to a stand. When 
all was done the noise ceased, and no one coming 
to me I went to bed as usual. On the next 
morning I got up at daybreak, and looked eagerly 
from my spying place ; but I could discern only 
a blank cliff of rock, the ship being now moored 
against the very side of it. The negro came to 
me at the usual hour, but he brought a note 
with my breakfast ; and I read an invitation to 
dine with Captain Black at eight o'clock on that 
evening. You may be sure that I welcomed even 
such a prospect of change, for the monotony 
of the cabin prison had become nigh unbear- 
able ; and when at a quarter to eight that 
evening the old man threw open the door and 
said, " The Master waits ! " I went with him 
almost joyfully, even though the next step might 
have been to my open grave. 

He led the way up the companion ladder, 
which was, in fact, a broad staircase, elaborately 
lit with the electric light ; and so brought me 
to the deck, where there was darkness save in 
one spot above the fore-turret. There a lantern 
threw a great volume of white light which spread 



2io THE IRON PIRATE. 

out upon the sea, and showed me at once that 
we were in a cove of some breadth, surrounded 
by prodigiously high cliffs ; and the light being 
iocussed right across the bay, disclosed a cleft 
in these rocks leading apparently to a farther 
cove beyond. I had scarce time to get other 
than a rough idea of the whole situation, for 
a boat was waiting at the gangway, and the 
negro motioned to me to pass down the ladder 
and take my seat in the stern. The men gave 
way at once, keeping in the course of the search- 
light, and rowing straight to the cleft in the 
cliffs, through which they passed ; and so left the 
light and entered a narrower fjord, which was 
ravine-like in the steepness of its sides, and so 
dark, that one could see but a narrow vista of 
the sky through the overhanging summits of the 
giant rocks. This second cove opened after a 
while into a lake ; above whose shores, at a high 
spot in the side of the precipice on the left hand, 
I observed many twinkling lights, which seemed 
to come from windows far up the face of the 
cliff. These lights marked our destination, the 
men rowing straight to them ; and I found, when 
we came near the precipitous shore which bound 
the fjord, that there was a rough landing-stage, 
cut in the rock, and that an iron stairway led 
thence to the chambers which evidently existed 
above. 

When we had come to shore, and had been 



THE IRON PJRATK. 211 

received there by several men who held lan- 
terns, and had the look of Lascars, the negro 
conducting me pointed to the iron stairway and 
told me to mount: he following me to the sum- 
mit, where there was a platform and an iron 
door. The door opened as we arrived before it, 
and there standing by it I found the young 
doctor, who greeted me very heartily and ap- 
peared to be altogether in a merry mood. 

" Come in," he said, u they're waiting for you ; 
and this infernal cold gives men appetites. This 
way but it isn't very dark, is it ? " 

We were in a broad passage lit by electric 
light a passage cut in a crystal-like rock, whose 
surface had almost the lustre of a mirror. At 
intervals facing the cove were incisions for win- 
dows, but these were now hung with heavy 
curtains ; and there were cupboards and pegs 
against the rock wall on the opposite side to 
make the place serve the purposes of a hall. 
The passage led up to a second door this one 
built of fine American walnut ; and we passed 
through it at once into a room where I was 
astounded to see indisputable evidence of civili- 
sation and of refinement. The whole chamber 
was hung round with superb skins, the white 
fur of the Polar bear predominating ; but there 
were couches cushioned with deep brown seal ; 
and the same glossy skin was laid upon the floor 
in so many layers that the footfall was noiseless 



212 THE IRON PIRATE. 

and pleasantly luxuriant. The furniture other- 
wise was both modern and artistic. A heavy 
buhl-work writing-table opposite the door was 
littered with maps, books and journals ; there 
was a secretaire book-case in Chippendale by 
the side of the enormous fire-place, in which a 
great coal fire burned ; and above this was an 
ivory overmantel of exquisite work. A grand 
piano, open and bearing music, was the chief 
ornament of the left-hand corner ; while another 
Chippendale cabinet, filled with a multitude of 
rare curiosities, completed an apartment which 
had many of the characteristics of a salon and 
not a few of a study. 

But I had not eyes so much for the room 
as for the solitary occupant of it, who sat before 
the writing-table, but rose after I had entered. One 
glance assured me that I was face to face with 
Captain Black the Captain Black I had seen 
at the drunken orgie in Paris ; but yet not the 
same, for all the bravado and rough speech which 
then fell from his lips was wanting ; and his 
" Come in ! " given in answer to the young 
doctor's knock, was spoken melodiously in a 
rich baritone voice that fell very pleasantly upon 
the ear. When he stepped forward and held 
out his hand to me, I had the mind almost to 
draw back from him, for I knew that the man 
had crime heavy upon him ; but a second thought 
convinced me of the folly of making a scene at 



THE IRON PIRATE. 213 

such a moment ; so I took the great hard hand 
and looked him full in the face. He was not 
so tall as I was, but a man who appeared to 
possess colossal strength in his enormous arms 
and shoulders ; and one not ill-looking, though 
his black beard fell upon his waistcoat, and his 
jacket of seal was loose and ill-fitting. The 
strange thing about our meeting was this, how- 
ever. When he had taken my hand, he held 
it for a minute or more, looking me straight in 
the face with an interest I could not understand ; 
and, indeed, he then forgot himself entirely, and 
continued to gaze upon me and to shake my 
hand until I thought he would never let it go. 

When at last he recovered himself it was 
with a quick start. 

" I am glad to see you,'' said he ; " dinner 
waits us ; " and with that we passed into another 
chamber, hung with skins as the first was, but 
containing a dining-table laid for four persons in 
a very elegant manner, with cut glass, and silver 
epergnes laden with luscious-looking fruit and the 
best of linen. The light came from electric 
lamps in the ceiling, and from other lamps cun- 
ningly placed in a great block of ice, which 
formed the central ornament. Nor have I eaten 
a better dinner than the one then served. The 
only servant was a black giant, who waited with 
a dexterity very singular in such a place ; and 
the guests of the captain were the young doctor. 



2i4 THE IRON PIRATE. 

the Scotsman known as Dick the Ranter, and 
myself. The Scotsman alone displayed signs of 
that rollicking spirit of dare-devil which had 
characterised the meeting in Paris ; but the 
captain soon silenced him. 

u D'ye ken that we've no said grace ? " re- 
marked the lantern-jawed fellow, as we sat to 
table ; and then, raising his hands in impudent 
mockery, he began to utter some blasphemy, but 
Black turned upon him as with the growl of a 
wild beast. 

" To the devil with that," said he. " Hold 
your tongue, man ! " 

The Scotsman looked up at the rebuke as 
though a thunderbolt had hit him. 

u Verra weel, mon ; Verra vveel," he muttered ; 
" but ye're unco melancholy the nicht, unco 
melancholy." And then he fell to the silence of 
consumption, eating prodigiously of all that was 
set before him ; but in high dudgeon, as a man 
rebuked unworthily. Of the others, the doctor 
alone talked, chatting fluently of many European 
cities, and proving himself no mean raconteur. I 
listened in the hope of getting some idea of what 
was intended in my case ; also, if that could be, 
of the situation of this strange place in which I 
found myself; for as yet I knew not if it were to 
the North of America ; or, indeed, in what part 
of the Arctic Sea it might be. To my satisfaction 
the captain made no attempt to conceal the 



THE IRON PIRATE. 215 

information from me. The first occasion of his 
speaking during dinner was in answer to a 
remark of mine that I found the room very 
pleasantly warm. 

u Yes," he said, u you must feel the change, al- 
though you will feel it more when we get winter 
here. You know where you are, of course." 

I said unsuspectingly that I had not the faintest 
idea, when he cast a quick glance at the doctor, 
and the latter slapped me on the back quite 
joyously. 

" Bravo ! " he cried. u That prevents our put- 
ting one unpleasant question to you, anyway. 
I knew that your innuendo in the cabin was all 
make-believe." 

" Of course it was," added the captain : " but 
the knowledge of it saves our bustling you. How- 
ever, this isn't the time for talk of that sort. I 
may tell you, since you do not know, that you are 
on the west coast of Greenland, and that there is 
a Danish settlement not fifty miles from you al- 
though we don't leave cards on our neighbours." 

He called for champagne then, and gave a 
toast "The new recruit!" I did not raise my 
glass with the others, which he saw, and became 
stern. 

" Well," said he, " I won't have you hurried, 
and you're my guest until I put the straight 
question to you. When that happens you won't 
think twice about the answer, for we can be 



216 THE IRON PIRATE. 

very nasty, I assure you. Now try a cigar. 
These are good. They came from the collection 
of Lord Remingham, who was on his way to 
America a few weeks ago." 

" And met with an unfortunate accident," 
said the doctor, with mock seriousness, which 
was taken up by the Scotsman, who remarked 
in his best drawl " May his soul ken rest ! " 
and they all shouted with infamous laughter, 
but I listened with a morbid interest when the 
doctor continued 

" It's astonishing how good the quality of the 
tobacco and the champagne is on board the 
ocean-going steamers ; now this Bolinger '84 was 
the special pride of the skipper of the Catalania, 
which unhappily sank 1 in the Atlantic through 
the sheer impudence of the man who com- 
manded her. As he liked it so much, I broke 
a bottle over his head before we sent him to 
the devil, with five hundred others." 

"You may say, in fact, that he made the 
acquaintance o' the auld man wi' the flavour o' 
this gude stuff on him," said the Scotsman, 
which made them laugh again ; but Black was 
satiated with the banter, and he rose from the 
table suddenly as the man Four-Eyes entered. 

" This pleasant party must disperse," he said 
to me ; " you can go to the quarters we have 
provided for you, unless you would like to see 
more of us. We are well worth seeing, I think, 



THE IRON PIRATE. 217 

ana we may give you some idea of our other 
side." 

" I should like to see everything you can 
show me," I replied, being aflame with curiosity 
to know all that the strange situation could 
teach me ; and then he made a motion for the 
others to follow, and we passed from the room. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

ONE SHALL LIVE. 

THE way from the dining-room was through a 
long passage, lighted with arc lamps at intervals, 
and having the doors of many rooms on the 
right-hand side of it. Several of these doors 
were open ; and I saw the interiors of well- 
furnished bedrooms, of smaller sitting-rooms, and 
of a beautifully-furnished billiard-room. At the 
end of the passage, we descended a flight of 
stairs to another landing, where there was a 
steep rock-slope leading right through the cliff 
almost to the level of the water. This proved 
the way to a small stretch of beach which was 
at the uppermost end of the fjord ; and here I 
found several substantial buildings of stone, evi- 
dently for the use of Black's company. The 
largest of the houses seemed to be a kind of a 
hall, well lighted by arc lamps. Into this we 
passed, lifting a heavy curtain of skins ; and 
seated there, on all sorts of rough lounges and 
benches, were the men I had seen in Paris, with 
fifty or sixty others, no less ferocious-looking or 
more decently clad. There were negroes in light 
check suits and red flannel shirts ; Americans in 



THE IRON PIRATE. 219 

velveteen coats and trousers ; Italians muffled up 
in jerseys ; Spaniards playing cards before the 
roaring fire ; half-castes smoking cheroots and 
drinking from china pots ; Englishmen lying 
wrapped in rugs, asleep, or bawling songs to 
a small audience, which gave a chorus back 
in mellifluous curses ; Russians drunk with spirits ; 
Frenchmen chattering ; Chinese mooningly silent ; 
over all an atmosphere of smoke and foul odours, 
of fetid warmth and stifling heaviness. 

As we entered the place the din was deafen- 
ing, a medley of shouts and oaths, of songs and 
execrations ; but it ceased when the captain 
bawled " Silence ! " and an unusual stillness pre- 
vailed. The man Four -Eyes, who was always 
the immediate u go-between " so far as the cap- 
tain and crew were concerned, at once put chairs 
for us near the huge fireplace, setting a great 
armchair for the skipper, with a small table 
whereon were many papers, and a small wooden 
hammer such as the chairman of a meeting 
commonly uses. Black took his seat in the 
great chair, with the doctor, the Scotsman, and 
myself around him ; and then he harangued the 
men. 

" Boys," he said, " we're home again. I give 
you luck on it and swill it down in liquor." 

I noticed that he had put on with his entry 
into the room all his old fierceness of manner 
and coarseness. H-- shouted out his words 



220 THE IRON PIRATE. 

whenever he spoke, and emphasised them with 
bangs of the hammer upon the table. The call 
for wine was answered by some of the niggers 
fetching in cases of champagne, and soon the 
stuff was running in every part of the hall. 
The captain waited until the men were drinking, 
and then he continued 

" I guess, boys, the next thing to do is to 
make our calculations. We've had a smart 
month's work, and there's a matter of two 
hundred and fifty pounds a man waiting for 
you when next you foot it in New York. 
That's my calculation ; and if there's one of you 
doubts it, he can see the figures." 

He waited for them to speak, but they gave 
him only a great shout of approval, when he 
became more serious. 

" You know, lads, there'll be a spell of 
holiday here for you, which you may reckon 
that I regret as much as any of you. The 
skipper of the American cruiser has made hell 
in Europe, and there's twenty cruisers out after 
us if there's one. That I snap my fingers at ; 
but fighting isn't the game for you and me, 
who are looking for dollars ; and we won't hurt 
to lie low until the spring. Has any man got 
anything to say against that ? " 

There was hot a word in answer to the 
threatening question ; and then Black, bracing 
himself up to anger, went on 



THE IRON PIRATE. 221 

" J now come to speak of a bit of business 
which you all want to hear about. There was 
two of you refused a double watch when we 
left the Yankee cruiser. Let 'em step forward." 

One man, a dark-visaged Russian, with a yellow 
beard, stepped to the table at the words, but he 
was alone. 

'Where is Dave Skinner?" asked the captain 
in a calm, but horridly meaning, voice. 

"I guess he's sleeping on it," said the man 
Roaring John, whom I noticed for the first time, 
curled up on a bench in the corner, the bandages 
still upon his face. 

" Kick him awake, the blear-eyed bullock," said 
Black, and the kicking was done right heartily ; 
the subject, a huge man with dark hair, closely 
cropped, and a stubbly beard, rising to his feet 
and looking round him like one dazed with strong 
drink. 

"Wall," said he, speaking to Roaring John, 
"you big-booted swine, what d'ye reckon ez you 
want along o' me ? " 

"Ask the skipper, cuss," replied the other, 
pushing the sleepy man forward to the chair where 
the Russian stood ; and then Black began to speak 
to them quite calmly 

" Boys," he said, " I got it agen you that you 
refused my orders, and refused them at a pinch 
when me and the rest of 'em ran for our lives. 
Each of you lays the blame for this on the other, 



222 THE IRON PIRATE. 

and I'm not going to haggle about that. You 
know what we're bound by, and that I can't go 
beyond what's written any more than you can 
go beyond it. There are two of you in this, 
and you settle your own differences one of you 
lives. John, give 'em knives ! " 

As I heard these words, amazed and doubting, 
the men, without any other incitement, and utter- 
ing no remark, stripped off their coats and stood 
naked to the waists. The crew about left off their 
games and drew near, forming a ring round the 
men, who had taken up great clasp-knives, and 
were evidently to fight for their very lives. I 
knew then the meaning of the words " One of 
you lives : " and an excitement, strange and full 
of morbid interest, took ' possession of me. 

That the men were to fight, and fight to the 
death, was sufficiently terrible ; but a savour of 
horror was added to the dish by the flagrant 
unfairness of the conditions under which they 
fought. The American, Skinner, was thickly 
built, and of a sturdy physique. He had the 
better of his man in height, in reach, in physical 
strength ; for Tovotsky, as I heard the Russian 
called, was a man of small stature, rather a shred 
of a man, full hairy about his breast, yet giving 
small signs of hardihood, or of power. It seemed 
to me that he might well have protested against 
the manner of the contest, and urged that a fight 
with knives would go to the stronger, skill being 



THE IRON PIRATE. 223 

no part of it ; but he said nothing, wearing an 
air of sullen determination, while his antagonist 
bellowed at him as though to overawe him by 
cheap bravado. 

" Stand up right here, so ez I ken stick you, 
boss," he cried, when they faced each other ; 
adding as the Russian dodged him : " What, my 
hearty, have ye got the taste of it already ? now 
steady, ye yellow-haired buzzard ; steady, ye skunk, 
while I make hog's meat of you." 

They stood crouched like beasts, or revolved 
about each other, the gleaming blades poised in 
the air, their left hands seeking holding-place. 
Skinner struck first, his knife shining bright 
against the light as he slashed at Tovotsky's throat, 
but the Russian doubled down between his legs, 
and the pair fell heavily a yard away from each 
other. 

"Slit him as he lies, Dave!" "End him, 
Tov ! " " Do you reckon you're abed ? " These 
and other equally elegant exclamations fell from 
the lips of the crew, as the men lay dazed, fearful 
of mischief if they rose. But the Russian was 
first up, and springing at the other, who rolled 
aside as he came, he sent his knife home in his 
opponent's back, and a great shout of " First 
blood ! " turned me sick with the terror of it. 
Nor could I look at them for some minutes, 
fearing to see a more repulsive spectacle ; but 
when next I saw them, they were crouching again, 



224 THE IRON PIRATE. 

and the American was silent, undoubtedly suffer- 
ing from his wound, which bled freely. Presently 
he made another spring at Tovotsky, who ducked 
down, but got a slit across his shoulder, whereon 
he set up a howl of pain, and ran round and 
round the ring ; while the other followed him, 
making lunges terrible to see, but doing no more 
mischief. The effort took the breath out of 
both of them, and they paused at last, panting 
like dogs, and drinking spirits which their friends 
brought them. When they resumed again, it 
was by mutual agreement, rushing at each other 
and gripping. Each man then had got hold of the 
right hand of his antagonist, so that the deadly 
knives were powerless, while the pair struggled, 
trying to " back-heel " each other. Round and 
round they went, bumping against their fellows 
in the circle, straining their muscles so that they 
cracked, uttering fierce cries in the agony of the 
struggle for life. But the American had the 
strength of it, and he forced Tovotsky's hand 
back upon him, stabbing him with his own 
knife again and again, so that the man's breast 
was covered with wounds, and he seemed like 
soon to faint from weakness. It might have 
been that he would have died where he stood, 
but by some terrible effort he forced himself 
free ; and with the howl of a wild beast, he 
thrust his own knife to the hilt in the American's 
side. It broke at the handle ; but the long blade 



THE IRON PIRATE. 225 

was left embedded in the flesh, and the force 
of the blow was so overwhelming that Skinner 
drew himself straight up with death written in 
his protruding eyes and distorted features. Yet 
he had strength to seek vengeance, for his 
antagonist had now no weapon left to him, which 
the American saw, and ran after him with a 
scream of rage ; when Tovotsky fled, breaking 
the ring, and scudding round the great room 
like a maniac. There Skinner followed him, 
crying with pain at every movement, almost 
foaming at the mouth as his wiry enemy eluded 
him. At last the Russian approached the door, 
his opponent being within a few feet of him, but 
the smaller man fell headlong through the curtain, 
and at that the death-agony came upon Skinner. 
He stopped as though held in a vice, hurled 
his knife at the Russian, and fell down dead. 
The men gave a great shout, and rushed from 
the place to find the other ; but they brought 
him in dead as he had fallen, and far from being 
moved at the ghastly sight, they holloaed and 
bellowed like bulls, coming to reason only at 
the skipper's cry. 

" Take 'em up to the cavern, some of you 
there, and lay 'em side by side to cool," he said 
brutally, and his orders were instantly obeyed. 
Others of the crew brought buckets and swabs 
unbidden, and cleansed the place, after which 
Black addressed the men again as though the 
H* 



2 2 6 THE IRON PIRATE. 

terrible scene was a thing of common happen- 
ing. 

"Before I give you good-night," he said, "I 
want to tell you that we've got a stranger with 
us ; but he's here to stay, and he's my charge." 

" Has he jined ? " asked the blear-eyed Yankee, 
who had eyed me with much curiosity ; but the 
captain answered 

" That's my affair, and you keep your tongue 
still if you don't want me to cut it out ; he'll 
join us by-and-by." 

" That's agen rules," said the man Roaring 
John, loafing up with others, who seemed to 
resent the departure. 

" Agen what ? " asked Black in a tone of 
thunder, turning on the fellow a ferocious gaze ; 
" agen what, did you remark ? " 

"Agen rules," replied Roaring John; "his 
man broke my jaw, and I'll pay him, oh, you 
guess ; it's not for you to go agen what's written 
no more than us." 

Black's anger was evident, but he held it 
under. 

" Maybe you're right," he said carelessly ; 
" we've made it that no stranger stays here unless 
he joins, except them in the mines but I've my 
own ideas on that, and when the time comes I'll 
abide by what's done. That time isn't yet, and 
if any man would like to dictate to me, let him 
step out maybe it's you, John ? " 



THE IRON PIRATE. 227 

The fellow slunk away under the threat, but 
there were mutterings in the room when we left ; 
and I doubt not that my presence was freely 
discussed. This did not much concern me, for 
Black was master beyond all question, and he 
protected me. 

We went back with him to the long passage 
where I had seen the doors of bed-chambers, 
and there he bade me good-night. The doctor 
showed me into a room in the passage, furnished 
both as a sitting-room and a bedroom, a chamber 
cut in the solid rock, but with windows towards 
the sea ; and when he had seen to the provisions 
for my comfort, he, too, went his way. But first 
he said 

" You must have been born under a lucky 
star : you're the first man to whom Black ever 
gave an hour's grace." 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE DEN OF DEATH. 

THE bed in which I lay was wondrous soft and 
downy ; and the cold gave me deep sleep, so that 
I awoke at a late hour to find the sun streaming 
through my rock window, and the negro telling 
me, as he was wont to do in the ship, that my 
bath was ready. The bath-room lay away a few 
paces from my chamber ; but the water that 
flowed from the silver taps was icily cold ; and 
I shivered after my plunge, though the beauty 
and luxury of the place compelled my admiration. 
It was no ordinary bath-room, even in its arrange- 
ment, the great well of water being large enough 
to swim in, and the basin of pure white marble ; 
while soft and brightly-coloured rugs were laid 
on the couches around, and the arched roof was 
Eastern in design and decoration. When we 
returned to my sleeping-place, I found the bed 
curtained off, leaving a commodious apartment, 
with books, armchairs, a writing-table, and a fire- 
place, in which a coal fire burned brightly. But 
the greater surprise was the view from my window, 
a view over a sunlit fjord, away to mountain peaks, 
snow-capped and shining ; and between them to a 



THE IRON PIRATE. 229 

vista of an endless snow-plain, white, dazzling, and 
not altogether un monotonous, yet relieved by the 
nearer patches of green and almost garden-land 
which seemed to stretch towards the sea. 

My new home was, as I had thought, upon the 
side of a fjord which led through a canon to the 
outer basin. There was beach at the upper end of 
it, and grass-land where several canoes and kayaks 
lay ; and I saw that many of the men who had 
watched the horrors of the night were working 
lustily now, dragging stores and barrels from a 
heavily-charged screw steamer which was anchored 
near the beach. The rocks which bound the 
opposite side of the bay did not appear to be cut 
for dwellings as on our side ; but I saw trace of 
several passages in them ; and away above them 
there was a small mountain peak by which a river 
of ice ran into the sea. But of the outer cave I 
could observe nothing ; or of the shore itself, 
though away at a greater distance, over some of 
the ravines, I made out the clear blue of the 
Atlantic, and a waste of peaceful water. 

The doctor came to me while I was at break- 
fast. He was very cheerful, and began to talk at once. 

" The captain sends you his compliments," he 
said; "and hopes you have slept. Entre nous^ 
you know, he doesn't care a brass button for such 
things as we saw last night ; but if we didn't keep 
discipline here, we should have our throats cut in 
a week." 



230 THE IRON PIRATE. 

. I gave him civil words in return, and he went 
on to speak of personal matters. 

" The men are inclined to resent the exception 
that has been made in your case. I am afraid it 
will lead to trouble by-and-by, unless, of course, 
you choose to close with the offer that Black 
makes to you." 

" You speak of an ' exception,' and an ' offer,' " 
said I ; u but for the life of me, I don't quite know 
what you mean. How has an exception been 
made in my case, and what is the offer ? " 

" I will tell you in a minute ; Captain Black 
has brought thirty or forty Englishmen of your 
position, or better, to this place within the last 
three years ; not one of them has lived twenty 
hours from the time he 'set foot in the rock-house. 
As for the offer, it is evident to you that we could 
not permit any man to share our privileges, and to 
be one of us, unless he shared also our dangers and 
our risks. In other words, the time will come 
when you must sign an agreement such as I 
have signed, and these men have signed and 
I don't believe that you will refuse. It is either 
that, which means full liberty, plenty of money, 
a life which is never monotonous, often amusing, 
and sometimes dangerous ; or an alternative which 
I really won't dilate on." 

"You lay it all down very clearly," I replied, 
" but you can have my answer now if you like." 

He raised his hand laughingly. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 231 

"Curse all emotion," he said, "it affects di- 
gestion. Black won't hurry you why, for the 
life of me, I can't tell, but he won't. You can't 
do better than take things easy, and see the 
place. I've brought you a ' Panama/ for the sun 
can advertise himself at eight bells still ; and if you 
have nothing better to do, put it on, and light 
a cigar as we stroll round." 

The idea of inspecting the place pleased me. 
I followed Doctor (Jsbart for such his name 
was down the rock slope we had trodden on 
the previous evening ; and thence to the beach, 
hard and baked with the sun. The men, who 
had ceased the labour of discharging the steamer, 
were lying about on the grassy knolls, smoking 
and dozing, and they cast no friendly glances 
on me as we passed along the shore round the 
edge of the bay, and mounted a soft grass slope 
which led to the cliff-head on the other side. 
It was a long walk, but not unpleasant, in the 
crisp, sweet, odour-bearing air ; and when we 
had attained the summit, a glorious seascape was 
spread before us. All about were the white peaks 
and the basaltic rocks, towering above ravines 
where ice flowed, or falling away to bright green 
pastures where reindeer trod. The coast-line was 
lofty and awe-inspiring, often showing a precipi- 
tous face to the sea, which beat upon it with 
the booming of heavy breakers ; and spread surf 
all foaming upon its ridges and promontories. 



232 THE IRON PIRATE. 

I stood entranced with the vigour born of that 
life-giving breeze ; and the young doctor stood 
with me watching. At last he touched me upon 
the shoulder, and pointed to the first cave, where 
the nameless ship lay snugly moored in the creek, 
with many seamen at work upon her. 

" Look," he said, " look there, where is the 
instrument of our power. Is not she magnificent ? 
Do you wonder at my warmth yet why? for 
without her we here are helpless children, victims 
of poverty, of law, of society. With her we defy 
the world. In all Europe there is no like to 
her ; no ship which should live with her. Ask 
her for speed, and she will give you thirty knots ; 
tell her that you have no coal, and she will carry 
you day after day and demand none. Aboard her, 
we are superior to fleets and nations ; we ravage 
where we will ; we laugh at the fastest cruisers 
and the biggest warships. Are you surprised 
that we love her ? " 

He spoke with extraordinary enthusiasm the 
enthusiasm of a fanatic or a lover. The great 
ship reflected the sun's glow from her many 
bright parts, and was indeed a beauteous object, 
yet swan-like, the guns uncovered as the men 
worked at them, and a newer lustre added to 
her splendour. 

" She is a wonderful ship," said I, " and 
built of metal I never met with." 

" Her hull is constructed of phosphor-b; onze," 



THE IRON PIRATE. 233 

he answered, " and she is driven by gas. The 
metal is the finest in the world for all ship- 
building purposes, but its price is ruinous. None 
but a man worth millions could build the like to 
her." 

" Then Captain Black is such a man ? " I 
said. 

" Exactly, or he wouldn't be the master of 
her and of Europe. Doesn't it occur to you 
that you were a fool ever to set out on the enter- 
prise of coping with him ? " 

I did not answer the taunt, but looked sea- 
ward, away across the west, where Roderick and 
Mary were. The boundless spread of water re- 
minded me how small was the hope that I should 
ever see them again ; ever hear a voice I had 
known in the old time, or clasp a hand in fellow- 
ship that had oft been clasped. They thought 
me dead, no doubt ; and to take the grief from 
them was forbidden, then and until the end of 
it, I felt sure. 

But the doctor was still occupied with the 
great ship, looking down upon her as she lay, 
and he called my attention to a fact I had not 
been cognisant of. 

" We are coaling here, do you see ? " he said. 
" It was one of Black's inspirations to choose 
Greenland for his hole ; it is one of the few 
comparatively uninhabited countries in the world 
where coal is to be had, somewhat of a poorer 



234 THE IRON PIRATE. 

quality than the anthracite we are accustomed 
to use, but very welcome when we are close 
pressed. He is filling his bunkers now, in case 
we should decide to break up this party before 
the end of the winter. That will depend on 
our friends over in Europe. We have given 
them a nightmare, but it won't last, and they'll 
go to bed again to get another." 

" Who are your miners ? " I asked suddenly, 
interrupting him, for I saw that the rock above 
the nameless ship was pierced with tunnels lead- 
ing down to the shafts, and that forty or fifty 
coal-black fellows were shooting the stuff into 
the bunkers. 

" These are our guests," he said lightly, " honest 
Fritish seamen whose voyages have been in- 
terrupted. We give them the alternative of 
work in the mine, or their liberty on the snow 
yonder." 

" But how can they live in such a place ? '' 

He laughed as though the whole thing were 
a joke. 

" They don't live," said he. " They die like 
vermin." 

" I'm evidently afloat with a lot of fine-spirited 
fellows," said I ; " or, to put it in plain English, 
with a beautiful company of blackguards." 

" Why not say with a lot of devils that would 
be more accurate ? But you can't forget that 
you came to us unasked, and now you must stop." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 235 

His leer at this sally was terribly expressive, 
and I showed all the contempt I felt for him, 
turning away to the sea fondly, as the hope of 
my liberty, since thence only should it come. 
He read my thoughts, perhaps, taking me by 
the arm with unsought pretence of kindness, 
and he said 

" Don't let's dissect each other's morals ; we 
have the place to see, and you must be getting 
hungry. I will show you only one thing before 
we go it is our cemetery." 

It was not a fascinating prospect, yet I 
followed him across the high plateau to the 
creek wherein the rock-house was, but to the 
side which was opposite to my bedroom window. 
There he descended the face of the cliff by rough 
steps ; and entered one of the passages which 
I had observed from my chamber. The passage 
was long and low, lighted by ships' lanterns at 
intervals, and I discovered that it led to a great 
cavern which opened to the face of one of the 
glaciers going down to the sea on the farther 
side. Nor have I entered a sepulchre which 
ever gave me such an infinite horror of death, 
or such a realisation of its terrors. 

The end of the cavern was nothing but a wall 
of ice, clear as glass, admitting a soft light which 
illuminated the whole place with dim rays, making 
it a place of mystery and awe. Yet I had not 
noticed its more dreadful aspect at the first 



236 THE IRON PIRATE 

coming ; and, when I did so, I gave a cry of 
horror and turned away my face, fearing to see 
again that most overwhelming spectacle. For 
blocks had been cut from the clear ice, and the 
dead seamen had been laid in the frozen mass 
just as they had died, without coffin or other 
covering than their clothes. There they lay } 
their faces upturned, many^ of them displaying 
all the placid peacefulness of death ; but some 
grinned with horrible grimaces, and the eyes of 
some started from their heads, and there were 
teeth that seemed to be biting into the ice, and 
hands clenched as though the fierce activity of 
life pursued them beyond the veil. Yet the 
frightful mausoleum, the den of death, was pure 
in its atmosphere as a garden of snow, cool as 
grass after rain, silent as a tomb of the sea. Not 
a sound even of dripping water, not a motion 
of life without, not a sigh or dull echo disturbed 
its repose. Only the dead with hands uplifted, 
the dead in frozen rest, the dead with the smile 
of death, or the hate of death, or the terror of 
death written upon their faces, seemed to watch 
and to wait in the chamber of the sepulchre. 

I have said that the sight terrified me ; yet 
the whole of my fear I could not write, though 
the pen of Death himself were in my hands. 
So profoundly did the agony of it appeal to me 
that for man)- minutes together I dare not raise 
my eyes, could scarce restrain myself from flying, 



THE IRON PIRATE. 237 

leaving the dreadful picture to those that should 
care to gaze upon it. Yet its spell was too 
terrible, the morbid magnetism of it too potent ; 
and I looked again and again, and turned away, 
and looked yet once more ; and went to the 
ice to gaze more closely at the dead faces, and 
was so carried away with the trance of it that 
I seemed to forget the dead men, and thought 
that they lived. When I recalled myself, I ob- 
served Doctor Osbart watching me intently. 

" A strange place, isn't it ? " he said. " Observe 
it closely, for some day you will be here with the 
others." 

I shuddered at his thought, and muttered, 
" God forbid ! " 

" Why ? " he asked, hearing it. " It's not a 
very fearful thing to contemplate. I would sooner 
lie in ice than in earth and that ice is not part 
of the glacier ; it never moves. It is bound by 
the rock there which cuts it off from the main 
mass." 

"It's a horrible sight !" I exclaimed, shivering. 

"Not at all," he said. u These men have 
been our friends. I like to see them, and in a 
way one can talk to them. Who can be sure 
that they do not hear ? " 

It was almost the thought of a religious man, 
and it amazed me. I was even about to seek 
explanation, but a sudden excitement came upon 
him, and he raved incoherent words, crying 



238 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" Yes, they hear, every one of them. Dick, 
you blackguard, do you hear me ? Old Jack, 
wake up, you old gun ! Thunder, you've killed 
many a one in your day. Move your pins, old 
Thunder ! There's work to do work to do 
work to do ! " 

His voice rang out in the cavern, echoing 
from vault to vault. It was an awful contrast 
to hear his raving, and yet to see the rigid dead 
before him. My surmise that Doctor Osbart 
was a madman was undoubtedly too true ; and, 
horrified at the desecration, I dragged him from 
the cavern into the light of the sun, and there 
I found myself trembling like a leaf, and as weak 
as a child. The cold crisp breeze brought the 
doctor to his senses ; but he was absent and 
wandering, and he left me at the door of my 
room. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE MURDERS IN THE COVE. 

FOR some days I saw no more of Doctor Osbart 
or of Captain Black. My existence in the rock 
house seemed to be forgotten by them, and where 
they were I knew not ; but the negro waited 
on me every day, and I was provided with 
generous food and many books. I spent the 
hours wandering over the cliffs, or the grass 
plains ; but I discovered that the place was quite 
surrounded by ice-capped mountains and by snow- 
fields, and that any hope of escape by land was 
more than futile. Once or twice during these 
days I saw the man " Four-Eyes,'' and from 
him gained a few answers to my questions. He 
told me that Captain Black kept up communi- 
cation with Europe by two small screw steamers 
disguised as whalers ; that one of them, the one 
I saw. was shortly to be despatched to England 
for information ; and that the other was then 
on the American coast gleaning all possible news 
of the pursuit ; also charging herself with stores 
for the colony. 

11 Bedad, an' we're nading 'em," he said in 
his best brogue, " for, wanting the victuals, it's 



240 THE IRON PIRATE 

poor sort av order we'd be keepin', by the 
Saints. Ye see, young 'un, it's yerself as is at 
once the bottom an' the top av it. ' Wot's he 
here for ? ' says half av 'em, while the other half, 
which is the majority, they says, ' When's the 
old 'un a-sending him to Europe to cut our 
throats ? ' they says ; and there's the divil among 
'em more divil than I ever seed." 

" It must be dull work wintering here," I said 
at hazard ; and he took up the words mighty 
eagerly. 

" Ay, an' ye've put yer finger on it ; sure, it's 
just then that there's work to do combing ov 'em 
down, young 'un. If I was the skipper, I wudn't 
sit here with my feet in my pockets as it was, 
but I'd up an' run for it. Why, look you, we're 
short av victuals already ; and we turn fifty av 
the hands in the mine ashore to-morrow ! " 

" Turn them ashore how's that ? " 

" Why, giv' 'em their liberty, I'm thinking : 
poor divils, they'll die in the snow, every one 
av them." 

I made some poor excuse for cutting short the 
conversation, and left him, excited beyond any- 
thing by the thought which his words gave me. 
If fifty men were to be turned free, then surely 
I could count on fifty allies ; and fifty-one strong 
hands could at least make some show even against 
the ruffians of the rock-house. Give them arms, 
and a chance of surprise, and who knows ? I said 



THE IRON PIRATE. 241 

But it was evident beyond doubt that the initiative 
must be with me, and that, if arms and a leader 
were to be found, I must find them. 

It might have been a mad hope, but yet it 
was a hope ; and I argued : Is it better to clutch 
at the veriest shadow of a chance, or to sit clown 
and end my life amongst scoundrels and assassins ? 
Unless the man " Four-Eyes " deliberately de- 
ceived me, Black would connive at the murder 
of fifty British seamen before another twenty-four 
hours had sped. These men would have all the 
anger of desperation to drive them to the attack ; 
and I felt sure that if I could get some arms into 
their hands, and help them to wise strategy, the 
attempt would at the least be justifiable. It re- 
mained only to ascertain the probability of getting 
weapons, and of joining the crew without moles- 
tation ; and to this task I set myself with an 
energy and expectation which caused me to for- 
get for the time my rascally environment, and 
the peril of my very existence in the ice- 
haven. 

During the remaining hours of the day I 
engaged myself in searching the houses on the 
beach ; but, although I looked into many of 
them, I found no sign of armoury, or, indeed, of 
anything but plain accommodation for living. 
Here and there in some rude dormitories I en- 
countered lazy loafers, who cursed at the sight 
of me ; and I did not approach the great common- 



242 THE IRON PIRATE. 

room, for I knew the danger of that venture. But 
I made such a tour of the block of buildings as 
convinced me of the futility of any attempt to 
get arms from them ; for such as were storehouses 
had iron doors and heavy locks upon them, and 
elsewhere there was scarce so much as a pistol. 
The discouragement of the vain search was pro- 
found, and in great gloom and abandoned hope 
I mounted the steep passage to my own apart- 
ment, and sat down to ask myself, if I should 
not at once surrender the undertaking, and pre- 
serve my own skin. That, no doubt, was the 
counsel of mere prudence ; yet the knowledge 
that fifty men would stand by me to the assault 
on the citadel of crime and cruelty haunted me 
and drove me from the craven prompting. I re- 
membered in a welcome inspiration that Black 
had a stand of Winchester rifles in his study ; I 
had seen them when I dined with him ; and 
although there were not more than half-a-dozen 
of them, I had hopes that they would suffice, if 
I could get them, with knives and any revolvers 
I might lay hands upon, to hold a ring of men 
against the company, or at least to warrant a 
covert attack on the buildings below. This 
thought I hugged to me all day, going often to 
the iron platform above the creek to know if 
there were any sign of the release of the men, 
or of preparation for getting rid of them ; but I 
could see none, and I waited expectantly, for it 



THE IRON PIRATE. 243 

were idle to move a hand until those who should 
be my allies had their so-called liberty. 

Towards evening, when I was weary with the 
watching, I returned to my room and found that 
the negro had spread the tea-table as usual ; and 
I drank a refreshing draught, and began to 
question him, if he knew anything of that which 
was going on below. He shook his head stupidly ; 
but presently, when I had repeated the ques- 
tion, he said, laughing and showing his huge 
teeth 

u Begar, you wait plenty fire jess now plenty 
knock and squeal ; oh yes, sar." 

" Are they going to murder the men ? " I asked 
aghast. 

" No murder ; oh no, sar, no murder, but 
plenty fight ah, there he goes, sar ! " 

There was the sound of a gun-shot below in 
the creek ; and I went to my window, and 
getting upon a chair, I saw the whole of a cruel 
scene. Some twenty of these seamen, black as 
they had come from the coal-shaft, were going 
ashore from a long-boat ; while an electric launch 
was bringing twenty more from the outer creek 
where the nameless ship lay. But the men who 
had first landed were surrounded by the others 
of Black's company, and were being driven towards 
the hills at the back ; and so to the great desolate 
plain of snow where no human being could long 
retain life. From my open window, I could hear 



244 THE IRON PIRATE. 

the words of anger, the loud oaths, the shouts, 
could see the blows which were received, and 
the blows which were given. Anon the fight 
became very general. The pirates hit lustily 
with the butt-ends of their pistols ; the honest 
fellows used their fists, and many a man they laid 
his length upon the rock. Yet there was no 
question of the sway of victory, for the prisoners 
were unarmed, and the others outnumbered them 
hopelessly. Inch by inch they gave way, were 
driven towards the ravines and the countless miles 
of snow-plain ; and as the battle, if such you could 
call it, raged, the armed lost control of themselves 
and began to shoot with murderous purpose. 
Death at last was added to the horrors, and, as 
body after body rolled down the rocky slope and 
fell splashing into the water, those unwounded 
took panic at the sight, and fled with all speed 
away up the side of the glacier mount ; and so, 
as I judged it must be, to their death in that 
frozen refuge beyond. 

When all was quiet I shut my window, and 
sat in my chair to think. The negro had left 
me, and the whole place was very still. Neither 
Black nor the doctor had showed during the 
scene of the massacre (for I could call it nothing 
else) ; and in the rock-house itself there was not 
so much as a footfall. I began to hope that the 
master of the place might chance to be away ; 
and when darkness had fallen I went into the 



THE IRON PIRATE. 245 

long passage then deserted, and found the door 
of his sitting-room ajar, but the place was dim 
within ; and I feared to make an attempt to get 
the arms until I knew that all slept. But one 
misfortune could lie between myself and the aid 
which I should bear to these men it was the 
chance that Black locked the door of his study 
when he slept. If he did not, I could get the 
rifles, and convey them across the bay to the 
other fellows ; if he did, all hope were gone. 

At seven o'clock I dined as usual, no one 
coming to me ; and at eight the negro had cleared 
away the repast, and had left me for the night. 
I closed my own door, and for three hours or 
more I paced my chamber, the fever of antici- 
pation and of design burning me as with fire. It 
must have been eleven o'clock when at last I 
put out my light, and listened in the passage ; 
yet heard nothing, not even the echo of a distant 
sound. 

Of the doors about, the majority were closed ; 
but the doctor's was open, and his room was in 
darkness, so that I began to fear that he was 
closeted with Black ; and I went very stealthily, 
having left my boots behind me, to the man's 
study, and found that door ajar as it had been 
when I had come to it some hours before. This 
discovery set me almost drunk with hope. There 
was no doubt that both the men were away from 
their rooms, so that my time could not have been 



246 THE IRON PIRATE. 

better chosen ; and, more fearless in their absence, 
I pushed the door wide open and began to feel 
my way in the blinding dark. 

My first proceeding was to run upon some slight 
article of furniture, and to overturn it. The crash 
that followed echoed through the vaulted passages, 
and I stood quite still, thinking that all chance of 
success had gone with the mishap. But no sound 
followed, and after many minutes I went on again 
with great care, feeling my way as a cat, quite sure 
that at last I should succeed. Twice I went round 
the room, and could not put my hand upon the 
rifles ; but at the third attempt I found them, 
and gave a sigh of relief. Then an overwhelming 
terror struck me chill and powerless. My sigh 
was echoed from the cbrner by the window ; and 
a low chuckle of laughter followed it. I stood as 
a man petrified, my hand upon a gun, but my 
nerves strained to a tension that was horrible to 
bear. Who was there with me ? By whom was 
I watched ? 

Alas ! I knew in another moment, when the 
electric light flooded the chamber, and I saw 
Black sitting at his writing-table, observing me, 
a jeer upon his lips, and all the terrible malice 
of his nature written in his keen and mocking 
eyes. I stood transfixed by that searching gaze, 
held spellbound by the fascination of the obvious 
danger, my hand still upon one of the rifles, 
yet trembling with the agitation of discovery. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 247 

Words rose to my lips excuses, pleadings ; but 
they died away in my throat, and I could not 
utter them. Plans for the undoing of that which 
had been done, ways of escape, efforts to gain 
time, suggested themselves to me, but remained 
suggestions. I could do nothing but stand and 
sway my body as a victim before a python 
the prey before a snake that is about to 
strike. 

We must have watched each other thus for 
a minute or more. I saw during those moments 
when I was bereft of all power that the man 
had a revolver cocked at his left h md, but a 
pen in his right ; while manuscript lay before 
him, so that he must have been in the room 
for some time, and had extinguished his light 
only at my coming. And he had heard me 
quit my own chamber, I did not doubt ; yet 
this surprised me, for I had no shoes upon my 
feet, and had walked with the stealth of a cat. 
Indeed, he appeared to read the fleeting specu- 
lations of my thought, and at last to take pity 
on my position, for he leant over the table, and 
drew near to it a lounge on which the skin of 
a polar bear was spread. 

" Sit here," he said, ana at the bluff word 
my nerve came back to me. I sat before him, 
facing him with less fear. Yet it was humiliating 
to be treated almost as a child, and I knew from 
the inflexion of his voice that he spoke to me 



248 THE IRON PIRATE. 

then as one would speak to a school -lad who 
had played truant. And in this tone he con- 
tinued 

" You're a smart boy, and have ideas ; but, 
like all little boys, your ideas don't go far 
enough. I was just the same when I was your 
age, always trying to climb perpendicular places, 
and always falling down again. When you're 
older, you look to see what your hold's like 
before you begin. Meanwhile, you're like a 
little dog barking at a bull, and you're precious 
lucky not to be over the hedge by this time 
maybe the bull doesn't mind you, maybe he's 
waiting a day but take his advice and go to 
kennel awhile." 

He said this half-1'aughing, and in no sense 
fiercely ; but his words angered me beyond 
restraint, and I could have struck him as he 
sat. He saw my anger, and ceased his provo- 
cation. 

" Silly lad," he said again, " silly beyond ex- 
pression to put your head into a business which 
never concerned you, and to stake your life on 
a struggle which must have only one end. Don't 
you think so ? " 

At this I plucked up courage and. answered 
him 

u I came here to-night to stop your devilry 
in murdering fifty innocent men ; " but he started 
up at the words and raved like a maniac. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 249 

" And who made you judge, you puppy ? " 
he cried. " Who set you to watch me, or give 
your opinions on what I do or what I don't do ? 
Who asked you whether you liked it or didn't 
like it, you sneaking little brat ? I wonder I 
let you live to spit your dirty words in my 
face ? " 

His anger was fierce, terrible as a tornado. 
His teeth gnashed, his hands shook, he rolled 
in his chair like a great wounded beast ; but 
when he saw that I was unmoved, he fell quiet 
again, and wiping his forehead, where the sweat 
had gathered thickly, he said in a low, coaxing 
voice 

" Don't compel me, lad, to do what I have 
meant not to do. You're here for good or ill, 
and if you wish to keep your life, put a control 
on your tongue. These men are nothing to 
you ; they're lazy hogs that the world's well 
rid of let 'em die, and save you're own carcass. 
You've been here days now the first man that 
ever lived among us without signing our papers. 
But you can't stay that way any longer. You 
know this business. You've a straight notion 
that my hand's agen Europe, and, for the matter 
of that, agen the world, too ; those that share 
with me shall swing with me, and if I burn 
when it's done, by the devil himself they shall 
burn too. It isn't of my asking that you're 
amongst us, or that you took up the work of 
I 



2 5 o THE IRON PIRATE. 

the hound Hall, who put the first nail in his 
coffin that night he came to my bed at Spezia. 
I saw him there, though he thought me sleep- 
ing ; and that night I wrote death against his 
name, as I wrote it against yours when you 
entered my room in Paris. There's reasons why 
I've broken my word in your case, though you'll 
never know 'em ; but there's no reason why you 
shouldn't swear to go through it with me and 
mine, man for man, life with life, be it rope's- 
end or bullet, to rot among the fish, or to share 
every mate among us what's got upon the sea. 
That's my question, and you'll answer it now, 
yes or no, plain word and no shuffle ; meaning 
to you whether you go on as you've gone on 
in the past, or freeze amongst the others lying 
up there in the cavern ; whether you swim in 
money, as my lot swim in it, or get bullets in 
you thick as hail from northward. That's my 
question, I say again, and there's my papers. 
Sign 'em now, or you lie a corpse before an 
hour on the clock." 

He leant over his writing-table and put the 
paper into my hands, a rough sheet of parch- 
ment, which he wished me to read. But my 
eyes were dimmed with the restless excitement 
of the situation, with the dread terror of the 
alternative put to me ; and I saw nothing but 
lines of writing which swam before me. The 
silence of the room was terrible to bear ; and 



THE IRON PIRATE. 251 

it was as though I struggled for life while 
already in the tomb. My thoughts went 
hurriedly to Europe, to my home, to my friends ; 
above all I recalled the night when Martin Hall 
went to his death, and his shadow seemed by 
me, his face beseeching me, his hand holding 
mine back from the pen that it would have 
clutched. During this time the man Black leant 
towards me, and watched me, expectancy in his 
face, threatening in his pose. Yet he did not 
speak, and my eyes left the paper and I gave 
him look for look, and from his face my glance 
passed to his right hand which held the pistol ; 
and in that instant I took heart for a step 
which was the last mad design of a driven 
man. 

" Give me the pen ! " I said suddenly, rising 
and bending over the table. 

He put the pen into my hands, and leant 
back with a chuckle of satisfaction ; but the 
movement cost him the game. I clutched his 
pistol with a lightning grasp, and covered him 
with it 

" If you raise a finger I'll shoot you like a 
dog," I cried. 

Then the man, who was no craven, sat 
motionless in his chair ; and I saw the beads 
of terror falling from his forehead, but he be- 
trayed no emotion, and his face might have 
been cut from marble. I had the muzzle of the 



252 THE IRON PIRATE. 

pistol upon him, and I continued with greater 
confidence 

" If you raise your voice to call out, or if 
anyone comes to this room, you die where you 
sit." 

He heard me then more calmly, and replied 
deliberately 

" Boy, you are the first that's bested Black." 

"I'll take your word for that," I said; u but 
take care you are moving your hand." He 
held it still at once and continued 

u I'm caught like a rat in the hole. What 
do ye want ? Name it, and I'll know how we 
stand ! " 

u I want my life my life, now that I refuse 
to sign that paper." 

u Yes," he said, "that's a fair request, though 
I can't say it's in my power to make it that 
way." 

" It's in your power to stand with me you 
can give the order that no man's to lay a finger 
on me, and you will ? " 

He thought a moment, looking straight down 
the barrel of the Colt. Then he said 

" Yes, I can't avoid that I'll give you that." 

" And my liberty on the first occasion offer- 
ing." 

" No," he replied very slowly and sternly ; 
(i that's more than the devil himself could offer 
you ; they'd tear me to pieces." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 253 

There was no doubt that he had right in 
this ; and I reflected that I could gain nothing 
whatever by holding out. There was just the 
hope that he would abide by his word in the 
matter of my personal safety, but more I could 
not look for. The man could only die, and, it 
he gave me freedom, his own men would requite 
him as he said. I thought of this and put the 
pistol down ; then I offered him my hand, and 
he jumped up from his seat, grasping it with 
a great clutch altogether painful to bear, while 
he dragged me to the light and looked at me 
with that curious expression I had noticed when 
first I met him in the room. 

u You're a sound plank of a boy," he said : 
l< shake my hand, young 'un, shake it hearty ; go 
on, don't you think I mind ; shake it right so, you 
beauty of a boy ! " 

What else he would have said or done, what 
new token of his repulsive favour he would have 
bestowed on me, I know not ; but his wild antics 
were cut short by the sound of firing, rapid and 
oft repeated, which came to us from the shore of 
the cove below. At the first report he let go my 
hand and went to his window, from which he drew 
the curtain, so that I saw the whole bay lit with 
silver light from a full-risen moon, and the distant 
peaks as grim beacons above a land of rest ; a land 
which once, perchance, flowered with exotic luxu- 
riance, but which now wore the snow-silk mantle 



2 S 4 THE IRON PIRATE. 

that had fallen upon countless centuries of its past. 
Yet the whole glory and enhancement of the 
perfect peace were for the moment ruined, for out 
on the snow there was a hungry crowd of starving 
souls, crying, I doubt not, for bread ; and those 
to whom they cried answered them with their 
muskets, dyeing the glittering white with many 
a red stream, bringing many a hungered wretch 
to his last sleep in the frozen night of death. And 
out over the silence of the hills the cries for mercy 
rang as in bitterness to God, the dreadful cries of 
the weak, down trodden beneath the feet of those 
who knew not God, the last scream of perishing 
souls, the sobs of strong men in their agony. In 
vain I closed my ears, shut out the sight from my 
eyes. The picture came 1 to me again and again, 
the sound of the voices would not be hushed, and 
in turn I cried to Black 

" For God's sake, help those men, if you have 
anything but the instincts of a brute in you ! " 

He shrugged his shoulders defiantly. " What 
am I to do ? " he asked. 

a Stop the devil's work, and give the men bread, 
as I've just given you your life ! " 

There was a pause before he answered me, and 
I could see that an old nature and a new impulse 
fought within him. He did not give me any direct 
answer to my earnest appeal, but he snatched a rifle 
from a case and said 

"Take that pistol, and come on ; you've fooled 



THE IRON PIRATE. 255 

me once, and we'll make it even numbers. But it 
ain't as easy as cutting cheese, and there's blood 
to let." 

I followed him down the passage to the beach, 
where he blew a whistle sharp and shrill, and the 
note had a strange ring as it echoed through the 
canon. 

" That'll wake 'em on the ship," he explained. 
" I'm not afeard of these, but there's fighting to be 
done now lie behind me, and don't show till 
you're wanted." 

He advanced towards the snow-plain and sang 
out 

" John, you there, Dick hands to quarters, do 
you hear me ! Move right quick, or I'll move you, 
by thunder ! " 

They put down their arms from their shoulders 
in blank amazement, and listened to him as he 
went on 

" There's enough down for one night, I reckon, 
and I'm not going to be kept awake by your cursed 
firing what's to be done can be done in the morn- 
ing ; why, you boat-load of night rats, ain't any of 
you got sleep in you ? " 

They came round him slowly and sulkily, and 
he drove them to the big houses with pleasant 
oaths and fine round phrases. I lurked near him, 
but an American saw me and cried 

" Say, Cap'en, hev ye took to nursin' that boy 
ez ye seems so fond of ? " 



256 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" Shut your jaw, or I'll shut it for you ! " replied 
Black. " Is the boy your affair ? " 

" He's the affair of all of us, I calcerlate, an' 
some of us wishes to know particler if he's signed 
or no." 

Black was smothered in anger, but he showed 
it only with that terrible growling of the voice and 
his horrid calmness. 

" Oh, you want to know, do you ? Which of 
you, might I ask, is particler anxious about my 
business ? " 

There were thirty or forty of them round, 
and they pressed the closer at the question, as 
he continued 

"Let them as makes complaint step right 
here." 

Only four joined the leader ; but the captain 
suddenly snatched my revolver from me, and fired 
four shots ; and for each shot a man dropped dead 
on the beach ; but the American stood untouched. 
The appalling brutality of the action seemed to 
awe the rest of the crew. They stood motionless, 
dumb with their rage ; but when they recovered 
themselves they rushed upon us with wild ferocity ; 
and the Yankee fired at Black point-blank. I 
thought, tiuly, that the end was then ; but I heard 
a shout from the water, and, looking there, I saw 
Dr. Osbart in the launch ; and there was a Maxim 
gun in the bows of her. 

u Clear that beach ! " roared Black in awful 



THE IRON PIRATE. 257 

passion ; and instantly, as he dropped flat and I 
imitated him, there was a hail of bullets, and the 
main part of the crowd fell shrieking ; but some 
threw themselves down, while many stiffened and 
rolled in death, and blood spouted from scores of 
wounds. 

The victory was awful, instantaneous. As the 
men fled towards the hills, Black called after 
them 

" Bring to, you limp-gutted carrion, or I'll wipe 
you out, everv one of you ! Any man who'll save 
his throat, let him come here ! " 

At these words they turned back to a man, 
and came cowering to the water's edge. Thirty 
of their fellows lay dead or wounded on the stones, 
and many of those crawling towards us had bullets 
in their limbs. Yet Black had no thought for 
them. 

"Where's your leader?" he asked, and they 
pointed to the American, who lay with the blood 
pouring from a wound in his left thigh. 

" He's there, is he ? " screamed the infuriated 
man. " The darned skunk's down, is he ? Well, 
I'll cure him like a ham. Get torches, some of you, 
and ice him in." 

He was swaying with passion ; yet, even regard- 
ing it, I could not understand what his order meant, 
and I asked 

" What are you going to do with that 
man ? " 

T* 



258 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" What am I going to do with him? " he yelled, 
scarce noticing who spoke to him ; " I'm going to 
bury him." 

It was wonderful in that moment to see how 
the men, who had before defied him, then became 
as slaves at his command. A silence deep and 
profound rested upon them ; even those with the 
captain watched him in his outrageous anger and 
were dumb ; but all helped him in his ghastly 
work, and brought shovels and picks, which they 
carried to the higher plane of snow. As for the 
American, who sat upon the beach groaning with 
the pain of his wound, I do not know how any 
man could have wished to add to his hurt ; yet 
he asked for no sympathy, and it was plain that 
he knew what they meant to do with him. At one 
time feverish ravings seized him, and he shook his 
fist at all around him ; then he poured his anger 
upon Black, who listened to him, gratified that he 
should provoke it. And the more the man cursed, 
the greater satisfaction did the other show. 

" We've got to die, both of us," said the Ameri- 
can at last, ceasing his wilder oaths ; " you en me, 
Black, en there isn't much ez we kin look for ; but, 
if there's en Almighty God, I reckon ez He'll place 
this yere off my score, and lay it on yours, or there 
ain't no hell, an' there ain't no justice, and what 
seamen dreams of is lies lies as your word is lies, 
en everything about your cursed ship. Go on, lay 
me right here as I lay now ; but I'll rize agen 



THE IRON PIRATE. 259 

you, and the day'll come when you'd give every 
dollar ye're worth to dig me up, and give me life 
agen." 

The softer speech availed the poor fellow as 
little as the other. I felt then an exceeding pity 
for him, and I touched Black on the arm and was 
about to plead with him ; but at the sight of me 
he raised his fist, and I moved away, seeing by the 
light of his eyes that he was as much a madman in 
that moment as any maniac in Bedlam. For he 
stood foaming and muttering, his hands clenched, 
his hat upon the snow, great drops of sweat on his 
bronzed forehead. The haste of the men to get 
the picks was not half haste enough for him ; and 
when they began to dig he hurried them the more, 
until a great pile of snow had been thrown out. 

It was a weird scene the most weird I have 
ever known. We stood in a snow-pit amongst the 
hills, and above us rose in grandeur the great 
pyramids of basalt and gneiss. There was no sign 
of living green thing, even of lichens or of moss, in 
that elevated plain above the sea ; and the shrill 
call of the gulls was hushed in the greater stillness 
of the night. The moon, high in the unclouded 
sky, gave light far down into the crevasses clear, 
silvered light that made a jewel of every higher 
point, and sprinkled the crests of the breakers as 
with floss of fire. Nor was there wind, even a 
breath of the night's breeze, but only the melan- 
choly silence of the omnivorous frost, the boom 



260 THE IRON PIRATE. 

of falling avalanche echoing in the ravines and the 
ice-caverns, the groans of the doomed man a very 
Miserere amongst the hills, as down below amongst 
the dead upon the shore. 

In the snow-plain, which was the centre of this 
northern desolation, they dug the grave of the 
living man. I watched from afar held by what 
hideous power I knew not and I saw them roll 
him over into the trench they had dug, and shovel 
the snow quickly upon him. He watched them, 
silent in his terror ; but when his head only was 
uncovered he gave a shriek of agony, which rose 
like the great cry of a man going before his God, 
and ceased not to echo from height to height until 
long minutes had passed. Then all was hushed, for 
the cold mantle of death fell upon him. Slowly 
those who had done their work took up their tools 
and returned doggedly to the beach ; but Captain 
Black was unable to move from the man who had 
put that last great curse upon him not five minutes 
gone. Bare-headed and alone, he stood at the 
snow-grave, and looked down upon the mound 
now sparkling with the crystals of the frost that 
bound it. And as he looked there came a great 
weird wailing from a distant hill, a piercing cry, 
as of another soul passing, and it echoed again and 
again from peak to peak and ravine to ravine a 
wild " ochone," that had sadness and grief and 
misery in it ; and I knew that it was the cry from 
one of the seamen who had been turned from the 



THE IRON PIRATE. 261 

mines from one who mourned, perchance, the 
death of a friend or of a brother. Yet, at the cry, 
Black gave a great start, and shivering as a man 
struck down with a deadly chill, he passed from 
the grave to the beach. And this was the agony 
of his returning reason. 



CHAPTER XX. 

I QUIT ICE-HAVEN. 

IT was on the next afternoon, near to the setting 
of the sun, there having been unusual activity 
about the creek during the forenoon, that Doctor 
Osbart came to my room with great news for me. 

" This business with the men has completely 
upset our plans," said he. " Black hoped to winter 
here ; and to let the hubbub in Europe quite 
subside before he put to sea again. Now he can't 
do that, for there'll be trouble just as long as the 
crew eats its head off in this wilderness. There's 
only one thing that will keep the hands quiet, and 
that's excitement. After all, it's the same motive 
with most of us, from the gutter-beggar who lives 
on the hope of the next penny to the democrat 
who supports existence on a probable revolution. 
If we once get them away to sea, with money to 
win, and towns to riot in, we shall hear no more 
of this folly, and Black knows it. He has deter- 
mined to sail to-night ; and he'll take some of the 
men he put out of the mines to do the work of 
those who went down yesterday. I'm very glad, 
for I should have cut my throat if I'd been here 
the winter through, and I dare say you won' tbe 



THE IRON PIRATE. 263 

displeased to get a change of quarters ; but, before 
we talk of that, we must have the conditions." 

" I won't sign that paper, and Black has been 
told so," cried I at once ; " it's no good coming 
here again with that." 

" You're premature," he replied, with a smile, 
' premature, as you always are. Isn't it time 
enough to discuss the paper when I bring it to 
you ? " 

" Then what have you to ask? " said I, prepared 
to hear of something which I must refuse, but 
longing with a great hope for the freedom of 
the sea. 

" Simply this," he answered, " and, for the life 
of me, I don't see what the guv'nor is driving at in 
your case ; for he asks only that, if he take you 
from here, where you'd starve in a month if he left 
you, you shall give him your word, as a man of 
honour, that you will make no attempt to leave 
his ship without permission. Under no pretence 
or plea will you try to escape, and, whatever you 
see, you will not complain about when aboard 
with him. You are to hold no converse with 
the men, nor will you interfere with them in any 
work they do ; and you will carry out this contract 
not only in the letter but in the spirit. If you will 
give me your word on that now, you can pack your 
trunk and come aboard without any fuss ; but I 
don't disguise it from you, that any folly after this 
mav cost you your life, and that if you have half a 



2 6 4 THE IRON PIRATE. 

thought of playing us false, you'd better stop where 
you are." 

I debated on the whole extent of his proposi- 
tion, and made up my mind on it in a few moments. 
I was aware that, if I remained at the station, I 
could expect nothing but speedy death upon the 
ice, since the doctor had told me that the place 
would be deserted during the winter. Against this 
I had to ask myself if my going aboard the name- 
less ship meant in any way approval of the occupa- 
tion of those who sailed it ; but this suggestion was 
too trivial, and I dismissed it in a moment ; while 
the thought flashed across my mind that if I could 
but once be taken to European or American 
waters, there would be at least the probability 
that this man might fall into the hands of those 
who were seeking him. In that case liberty would 
come with his undoing ; which was even more 
pleasant to think upon than to contemplate it with 
him yet free as a voracious beast of the seas. 

" You accept ? " said the doctor, who sat watch- 
ing me as I thought these things ; and I answered 
him without hesitation 

" I accept." 

" The captain has your word of honour* as 
between gentlemen ? " 

"As between -well, if you like it so as between 
gentlemen." 

The satire of the last word was too much for 
him, for he was one of the pleasantest fellows in 



THE IRON PIRATE. 265 

his saner moments that I have ever met. We both 
laughed heartily, and then he said 

" But I'm forgetting, you've got no trunk, and 
I must lend you one. You're rather short of duds, 
1 know, but we can rig you out until we get to 
Paris, and there the skipper will see to it any 
way, so long as you've a coat thick enough, we 
won't criticise you in these parts ; and I don't 
suppose you're thinking of garden parties." 

" Anything but," I answered, as pleased as he 
was at the prospect of it all, and especially at the 
thought of quitting the ice-prison, if only for the 
winter ; "I have neither clothes nor cash." 

" Well, I don't see what you're going to do with 
the latter, just yet ; but, man, you can just help 
yourself from the first Cunarder we stop pshaw ! 
don't look like that ; wait until you feel the ex- 
citement of it all. Why, what is but one ship 
against the world, big men on their knees to you, 
money enough to wade in, and a fig for all the 
navies and all the fleets that ever left a port ? I 
defy 'em to put a hand on the ship if they spend a 
million in the process. Come with us and see it 
all, and you'll say it's the most daring, the grandest, 
the most stupendous enterprise that man ever 
conceived." 

It was no good to lift up one's voice against 
enthusiasm of this sort, so I let him lead me 
to his room, and took from him a trunk with 
some linen. As he said, it was more convenient 



266 THE IRON PIRATE 

to have my own things, and we were much of 
a build, so that his clothes were no ill-fit ; and 
he was ridiculously generous, pressing all that 
he had upon me, and lending me a great gold 
watch and gold studs that were illicitly gotten, 
I felt sure. 

In the end I had quite a store of clothing ; 
and I waited while he finished his own work 
that we might go down together to the launch 
awaiting us. There we found Black, watching 
men who were putting large bales of goods 
into the screw steamer, and everywhere there 
was sign of the break-up of the settlement. The 
captain merely nodded when I gave him a word, 
and I thought that he was sore depressed, with 
scarce energy enough to be irritable. He seemed 
to doubt the wisdom of the departure even 
then ; and he often hesitated in his walk, look- 
ing up to the windows of his home behind him. 
At the last, when the negro servants had come 
down the iron stairway, he locked the great 
door after them ; and then he stood and cast 
his gaze over to the hills and the desolate land, 
which I believed he had a great kindness for. 
When he did join us, he gave the word, " Let 
her go ! " with a dogged sort of indifference ; 
and at his command the launch ploughed ahead, 
and passed through the canon to the outer 
basin. 

The sun was almost in the horizon then, 



THE IRON PIRATE. 267 

and the northern lights were playing in the 
heavens, so that all the water was then alight 
with the glory of a hundred colours. Now 
orange, or a lighter golden, or blue as the 
Corsican Sea, or flaming scarlet, or emerald 
green, or all shades of yellow, with the pink 
and pearl and fainter green as of a colossal opal, 
the light fell ajid spread from bight to bight, 
and crag to crag ; and above there were sheets 
of eruptive flame and great rumblings, and 
mighty arcs of fire spanning the whole heavens, 
and gripping them as with the glittering jewelled 
hand of some monstrous keeper of the skies 
whose mutterings came to us below. Or the 
scene changed again, and it was as though elves 
of the zenith had brought their golden caskets 
above the firmament, and there had burst them 
open, so that all the jewels of the light rained 
upon sea and land, and burnt each other with 
their own beauty as they fell ; and the earth 
answered them back with her shining face. One 
of the supreme moments of life, truly, to bathe 
in this shower of multi-coloured splendour, to 
follow it in its golden path, where rocks took 
shape, and snow-forms lived, and the seas danced 
to its accompanying music, and one stood nearer 
to the great mysteries while yet farther from the 
homes of man. 

Black watched the aurora as we watched it, 
but chiefly as it played upon his ship, lying 



268 THE IRON PIRATE. 

moored in the very centre of the outer basin. 
They had made a great change in her since I 
had seen her but two days before ; for she was 
now given bulwarks of white canvas, and her 
funnel was painted white, while covers hid away 
the bright points of her deck-houses and her 
turrets. She had become a white ship ; and her 
transformation had been made \yith vast skill, so 
that I felt I should not have known her had I 
met her in the Atlantic. From her position 
away from the shaft of the mine, it was evident 
that she was ready to weigh, and I was reminded 
grimly of her mission by seeing a streamer of 
black at her mast-head instead of the Blue Peter. 
This time, too, there was a faint haze above her 
funnel, as though coal was being burnt in her 
furnaces ; yet I had no wonder that I did not 
see steam coming from her, for I knew that she 
was driven by gas, and was in many ways a ship 
of mystery. 

We boarded her at a ladder amidships, for 
the most part of her accommodation was con- 
tained in a towering deck erection round her 
funnel. Here there were two stages of cabins 
with a wide gallery running between them, and 
protruding so that it was directly above the 
water. There was, indeed, a companion-way aft 
of this which led to the cabin I had occupied 
when a prisoner in the ship, and I found at a 
later time that the library of the vessel, with 



THE IRON PIRATE. 269 

the store-rooms and a number of private cabins, 
was built in the 'tween decks abaft the funnel. 
Yet the great saloon I was to use during so 
many months, the quarters which Black occupied, 
the doctor's room, the rooms for the engineers, 
and for certain of the others who were privileged, 
were all ranged amidships ; and I learned that 
while there was a big fo'castle, it was given over 
entirely to the niggers, with whom the white 
men would not serve. These superior fellows, 
as they thought themselves, had accommodation 
in the poop, where there was a big cabin with 
berths all round it ; yet with all this, the small 
part of the whole vessel devoted to quarters 
was noteworthy, and was designed, I did not 
doubt, for some purpose which I should learn 
presently. 

These things I did not ascertain, you may 
be sure, on first boarding the ship. Although 
they left me to myself upon the high gallery 
whence I could see all the life on the decks 
below, they were so busy with the preparation 
for weighing anchor that no man spoke a word 
to me. The hands themselves, the moment they 
were afloat, settled down to work with surprising 
steadiness. Black upon the bridge now wore a 
smart uniform with gold buttons and much show 
of lace ; and the self-command of the man, the 
perfect knowledge of all things nautical which 
he displayed, and his all-absorbing love of his 



270 THE IRON PIRATE. 

child, the ship, accounted for much that I had 
not understood in him before. I found to my 
amazement that Doctor Osbart acted not only 
as surgeon to the crew, but also as second 
officer ; u Four-Eyes " being first officer ; and 
the bully, " Roaring John," third. The coarse- 
mouthed Scotsman who assumed the title of 
" meenister " was, they told me, as good a sea- 
man as any of them, and a wonderful gunner, 
so that he was in charge of the armament, with 
a big staff of men at his back. Of the engineers 
I saw nothing on first coming aboard ; but later 
I heard the sound of pumping below, and there 
came up to the bridge where Black and the 
others were, a little, thin, wizened, and spectacled 
man, quite bald, very ragged and black, yet with 
a head on him that could have stamped him 
u First-Class " in any assembly of the learned. I 
thought at the first glance that he was a 
German, and my surmise was confirmed by 
the doctor, who remembered me at last, and 
said 

"Do you see that little fellow? well, he's 
the genius of this ship. He's deaf and dumb, 
and no man has ever heard a word from his 
lips ; but he designed our engines, and he runs 
them with his three sons. It's almost pitiable 
to see the man's disregard for anything but that 
infernal machinery. He never leaves it ; it's 
meat and drink to him. If we make money, he 



THE IRON PIRATE. 271 

doesn't want it ; if we're going for a spell ashore, 
he won't come, but stays here poking about the 
wheels. He was the first man in all Europe to 
see that gas would finally supplant steam for 
maritime vessels ; and Black gave him carte 
blanche to carry out his ideas on this ship. You 
may be surprised to hear it, but fore and aft in 
those great cigar-shaped ends of ours we have 
nothing but gas three million feet, at a pressure 
of between two and three atmospheres. Why, 
man, it's the idea of the century ; for every four 
pounds of coal burnt by an Atlantic liner, we 
don't burn a pound. We can steam for ten 
days without lighting a fire ; and all the coal 
we need to go round the world will go in our 
bunkers. Save for that, and Karl Remey's genius, 
there wouldn't be a man jack of us with a neck 
to call his own to-day. Now, we snap our 
fingers at the best of them ; there isn't a cruiser 
that can live with the thirty knots we can show ; 
and there isn't a line-of-battle ship swimming 
that could get the better of us while our 
engines are moving. It's a big claim you think, 
but wait until you see us in action, then you'll 
know how much we owe to the little man in 
rags, but who has one of the clearest brains that 
ever was put into human being." 

I was silent under this revelation, for it came 
to me that, with all the terrors of the great 
ship, there was also a scientific side, which 



2 72 THE IRON PIRATE. 

marked the presence of a. mighty intellect. The 
doctor saw the impression he had made upon 
me, and he said 

" To-morrow we will show you more ; you 
shall meet the ragged man " 

" Which is mysel'," said the Scotsman, who 
had joined us silently, " mysel' that has'na a dud 
to my back. D'ye ken that when there's ony 
distribution o' the gudes I get a' the female 
apparel ; which is no justice ava for a meenister, 
let alone a sea-faring man." 

" Never mind, Dick," said the doctor laugh- 
ing, as I did ; " we'll beg a skirt for you the 
first time we say how-d'ye-do to a passenger 
vessel " 

" Hands, heave anchor ! " roared Black at 
that moment ; and our conversation stopped 
suddenly at the cry. Then slowly, as the bell 
rang out, the great engines began their work, 
and we swept out to the open sea. Night had 
fallen, but the aurora still gave her changing 
light ; and as we felt the first oscillations of 
the rolling breakers, Black took a long look behind 
him to his Arctic home. There before us was the 
black, towering, indented coast of Greenland, the 
bluff headlands of gneiss, the beacons of snow 
all crimson in the playing colours of the mighty 
arc ; and away beyond them, the vista of the 
eternal stillness, and the plain of death. A long 
look it was that the man of iron cast then 



THE IRON PIRATE. 273 

upon his wild habitation ; a look almost pro- 
phetic in its sadness, as if he knew that he 
should look upon it no more. A great fare- 
well of an iron heart, and the breakers sang 
the u Vale ! " as the ship sped onward to her 
deadly work. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

TO THE LAND OF MAN. 

We dined that night in the saloon upon the 
deck, a commodious place lighted by electricity, 
and in every way luxuriously fitted. The walls 
of it were panelled in white and gold, and were 
covered with curious designs, old heroes fighting, 
old gods drawn by lions at their chariots ; 
Bacchantes revelling, Jason seeking the fleece 
in a golden barque ; Orestes fleeing the Furies. 
The long seats were covered in leather of a deep 
crimson, and there was a small piano, with many 
other appointments that were significant. The din- 
ner itself was admirably served, and was partaken 
of by the deaf-and-dumb engineer, by the doctor, 
the Scotsman, and myself. We were waited on 
by a couple of negroes ; and when the meats 
were removed we went above to an exquisitely- 
furnished little smoking-room, and there drank 
rich brown coffee and enjoyed some very fine 
cigars. I was all ears then to learn, if I could, 
what was the destination of the ship ; and I 
found that Black talked without reserve before 
me, knowing well that I could do him no in- 
jury. He relied mostly on the doctor for advice, 



THE IRON PIRATE. 275 

and discussed everything with him in the best 
of tempers. 

"My plan is this," he said: ''we're short of 
oil, and Karl here is beginning to get uneasy. 
I shall knock over a couple of whalers in these 
seas, and fill the tanks. Then, as they're looking 
for us in mid-Atlantic, we'll get south of Madeira, 
and run against two or three of the big ones 
making for Rio or Buenos Ayres. We shall pick 
up a good bit of money ; and it'll be a month 
before they get on our course that way, for I 
mean to let 'em down light when it's not a 
case of saving our own skin." 

The Scotsman gave a deep sigh at this, and 
said in a melancholy voice 

u Hoot, mon, the deid frichtened you." 

" You're a liar," continued Black quite quietly, 
and then continued : " As Europe knows my 
game, it doesn't matter how often she hears of 
me. Let her hear, and come agen me, and 
I'll show my teeth. What we're out for this 
journey is money, specie, pieces in piles, and* 
we'll get that on the lay of Rio-bound ships 
better than in any waters. It'll be quick work, 
one against the rest of 'em ; but I built this 
ship to fight, and fight she shall you agree on 
that, doctor?" 

" Of course. The more fighting the men see 
the less trouble we shall have with them." 

"That's what I say give 'em work to do, 



276 THE IRON PIRATE. 

and they'll sleep like dogs when it's done ; give 
'em money and drink, and you've got hogs to 
drive. Now, let me get through the winter, 
and I'll run south a spell in hiding, and then 
make northward with ten thousand pounds a 
man when the fall comes. But first we'll have 
a week in Paris, I reckon, and stretch our legs 
amongst them as is most anxious to shake with 
us what do you say, Dick ? " 

u Man," said the Scotsman deliberately, " if 
there's nae killing, I misdoubt me o't a' 
thegither." 

u You're a fool," replied the skipper testily, 
" and if you don't go to bed, I'll kick you 
there." 

The fellow rose at this, and coolly emptied 
half a tumbler of whisky ; but before he could 
leave " Four-Eyes " came off the bridge and 
said laconically 

" Whaler on the port-bow." 

u Signal 'em to come to, and drop a shot," 
cried Black rising ; and then he called to the 
Scotsman and gave his orders 

u Stand by the gun ! " and with that we all 
went out to the gallery, and saw by the 
clear power of the moon a full-rigged ship not 
a mile from the shore. She was homeward bound, 
and seemed by her build to be a Dane. 

Upon our own deck there was already activity, 
some of the men getting away the launch, and 



THE IRON PIRATE. 277 

others putting empty barrels into it before they 
swung it out over the sea. There was a method 

O 

and quietness about it all which showed long 
habit at the same practice ; and when at last 
the great gun before the funnel boomed out, 
the fine accuracy of the shooting scarcely caused 
comment. The shot appeared to drop into the 
water almost under the whaler's bob-stay, and 
sent up a cloud of foam and spray, glistening 
in the moonlight ; but the ship answered to 
it as to a deadly summons ; and the tide and 
wind setting off shore, she went into the breeze 
easily, and lay to at the first demand. Then 
Black gave his orders 

"You, John, go aboard and buy their 'oil up 
I'm getting you notes from my chest." 

At the word buy, the man John seemed as- 
tounded. 

"Oh, I reckon," he said, "we'll pay 'em hard 
cash with a clout on the skull, cap'n ; come right 
along, boys, and bring your shootin' irons. Oh, 
I guess we'll pay 'em, money down, and men a- 
top of it." 

" You'll do nothing of the sort, you lubber ! " 
roared Black ; " but what you take you'll pay 
for, d'ye hear me ? then shut your mouth up 
and go aboard." 

John was not the only man who was struck 
by the skipper's whim. There were mutterings 
on the deck below, and Dick, who had come 



278 THE IRON PIRATE. 

from the conning-tower, was bold enough to 
make remark. 

"It's a'most sinfu'," he said, "to be sae free 
wi' the siller ; why man, ye could verra weel 
buy me a hundred pairs o' breeks wi' the same, 
and no be wanting it." 

But Black was watching the launch, now 
speeding in the moonlight towards the rolling 
whaler. I watched it too, remembering how, 
not many weeks before, I had stood on the 
deck of my own yacht, and awaited the coming 
of the same craft with my heart in my mouth. 
Now the danger was not mine, but I felt for 
the men who had to face it, since Black's talk 
about -purchase could scarcely soften the native 
ferocity of those who Served him ; and I feared 
that the scene would end in bloodshed. 

Happily the surmise was quite incorrect. 
That which promised a tragedy gave us but a 
comedy. We saw from the platform that our 
men were taken aboard the ship, and we watched 
to see them hoist their barrels after them. But 
they did not, making no sign of having the oil, 
although there came shouts and sounds of alter- 
cation from the anchored vessel ; and we saw the 
flash of pistols, and dark objects presently in the 
sea. To the surprise of us all, the launch returned 
after that ; and when our men came aboard, they 
presented a shocking spectacle. " Roaring John " 
was covered from head to feet with a thick, 



THE IRON PIRATE. 279 

black, oleaginous matter ; two of the others had their 
faces smeared in tar ; the rest were like drowned 
rats, and were chattering until their teeth clashed 
with the cold. Nor could they for some time, what 
with their spluttering and their anger, tell us what 
misfortune had overtaken them. 

" The darned empty skunks " gasped John at 
last " they haven't got a barrel aboard, not a 
barrel, I guess ; and when I gave 'em play with 
my tongue, they put me in the waste-tub oh, 
I reckon, up to my eyes in it '' 

" Do you mean to say," asked Black, u that 
they've took no whales ? " 

' Except ourselves, yer honour,'' said a little 
Englishman, who was cowering like a drowned 
rat, " which they throw'd overboard, like the 
whales in the Scriptures, never a fish." 

u Then we've wasted our time ! " cried the 
skipper, stamping his great foot ; " and you're 
lazy varmin to stop so long aboard parleying 
with 'em. I'm going on ; you can settle your 
scores among you." 

He gave the order " Full steam ahead ! " at 
which the third officer showed the temper of a 
whipped beast. 

" You're going ahead leaving them swimming ? 
Then darn me if I serve," said he. u What ? 
They pitch me in their dirty tub, and you laugh ! 
By thunder ! I'll teach you." 

Captain Black watched his anger with a 



2 8o THE IRON PIRATE. 

pitying leer ; but " Dick the Ranter " and " Four- 
Eyes " were overcome with laughter, and roared 
until the ship echoed. 

u Houly Moses, it's a fine picture ye are, my 
beauty," said the mate ; " and if oi'll be scraping 
ye down with a shovel, it's yer own fayther 
wouldn't know ye, so clane ye'll be." 

" To the which I would add, man," said Dick, 
" that if ye'd let yersel' drip into the lubricators 
you'd be worth siller to us ; not to say onything 
o' the discoorse I micht verra weel preach on. 
Satan from yer present appearance." 

The banter turned the man from his more 
meaning purpose. He stood gibbering for a 
moment, while the crowd pressed on him with 
gibes and jeers ; but he had his revenge, after all, 
for there was a tar-bucket at the foot of the upper- 
deck ladder, and with this he armed himself. 
The brush was well-charged and dripping, the 
tar yet liquid, the Scotsman's face was all-inviting. 
With a fierce shout the enraged man went to 
the attack, and painted his lantern-jawed oppo- 
nent merrily. In less time than I can tell of 
it, the Ranter dripped from head to foot ; the 
black stuff poured from his hemp-like hair, from 
his ears ; it oozed down his neck, it even ran 
through to his boots ; and when his enemy could 
no longer wield the brush from fatigue, he emptied 
the bucket on the man's head as a last triumphant 
vindication of his strength. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 281 

u Now we're a pair ! " he said, pausing for 
breath, and surveying his work as an artist surveys 
a finished picture ; " and I guess you ain't going 
to take the biscuit in this beauty show.' ; 

" Man, I could hae weel dispensed wi't," 
spluttered the Scotsman ; " but I thank ye for 
dyeing my breeks. They've been wanting colour 
since New Year.' 1 

The laughter had not yet died away when 
the men went to their cabins, and we posted the 
watches before turning in. We were at that 
time in Lat. 65 N. at a rough calculation, and 
we passed the Danish settlement of Godthaab 
early on the next morning, though so far out 
at sea that I could make nothing of it ; while we 
lost the coast of Greenland altogether before the 
day had passed, a hazy shower of dust-like snow 
greeting our coming to the Atlantic and to a 
perceptibly warmer latitude. During this day, 
and until we sighted the Shetlands, the small 
screw tender kept our course, and we exchanged 
signals with her every morning, her purpose 
being explained to me by " Four-Eyes," on the 
fourth morning out, in his child-like phraseology. 

" Faith, she's Liverpool bound, and we'll pick 
her up again south of the Scilly when she's 
tidings of ships out. Bedad, sir, there's fine times 
coming ; what wi' the say full av big ones, and 
we one agen 'em, I'm like to believe as we'll 
step ashore with our throats cut, ivery man av 
J 



282 THE IRON PIRATE. 

us, and on the shore av me own counthry, which 
sorra a day 1 left for this job." 

u Why did you leave it, ' Four-Eyes ' ? " 1 
asked cheerfully ; and he said 

" 'Twas this way, sorr, but it's a long yarn, 
and ye don't nade more than the p'ints av it. 
When I was priest's bhoy in Tipperary, me and 
Mike Sullivan had at ween us what you gents 
call a vendeny, and coming out av church 'twas 
Sunday mornin' five year ago I met Mike, an' 
he puts coals av fire on me head. ' Begorra,' 
says I, l it's lucky for ye I'm in the grace, but 
plase God I'll not be to-morrow ; ' but the spal- 
peen went to Cork next day, and it wasn't till 
a year that I run agen him, prepared to do my 
dooty." 

" And you did it, I'll be bound ! " 

" Sorra a bit ; I just fell in with the divil, 
being an aisy sort av sowl, and he made me 
as drunk as a gentleman that's why I'm here, 
sorr. He shipped me aboard and got five pounds 
from me, me that meant to thread on his head, 
the dirty skunk but it's the way av the world, 
sorr ; help a man that's down, an' the moment 
the spalpeen's on his fate he'll dance on ye." 

"Which is verra true," said Dick the Ranter, 
who after two days had still tar upon him, and 
was wrapped in a woman's shawl ; " but will ye 
postpone your thirdly, and go below to the doctor, 
who's wanting ye to see the gear ? " 



THE IRON PIRATE. 283 

They had not yet shown me the engines of the 
nameless ship, and I welcomed the opportunity, 
grown weary with watching the dull green of the 
sea, and the monotony of the sky-laden clouds. 
Dick led the way quickly from the gallery to 
the lower deck, and thence down an iron ladder 
to the great engine-room. Here truly was a 
wondrous sight ; the sight of three sets of the 
most powerful engines that have yet been placed 
in a battle-ship. Each of them had four cylinders, 
eighty inches in diameter ; and all were driven 
by the hydrogen from the huge gasometers which 
our holds formed. The gas itself was made by 
passing the steam from a comparatively small 
boiler through a coke and anthracite furnace, 
the coke combining with the oxygen and leaving 
pure hydrogen. The huge cylinders drove up- 
wards with a double crank to carry their motion 
to the screw ; and I found that the difficulty 
of starting and reversing was overcome by an 
intermediate bevel-wheel gearing and friction 
clutch, which could throw the motion off the 
shaft, and allow that instantaneous going astern 
otherwise impossible in a gas-engine. That day 
there was a huge fire in the furnace, emitting 
terrific heat and crackling sparks, for the men 
were making gas, in view of a run or two off 
the coast of Ireland. It was more pleasant than 
I can tell you to watch the entire absorption 
of the gifted engineer, in the maze of machinery 



28+ THE IRON PIRATE. 

which surrounded him, to paint the paternal 
pathos of his look as he watched every motion 
and eyed every bearing. The maker of an empire 
certainly he was ; the man of mind who, for the 
time, had given these ruffians the kingship of 
the sea ; had made mockery of the opposition of 
the nations ; and, I could not help but reflect 
as I turned away sick at heart at the sight of 
so much power, had caused me to be a prisoner, 
perhaps for life, in that citadel of metal. Yet, 
he was a genius ; and to the end of my days 
I shall think, as I thought then, of the superb 
gifts so wasted in their channel, of the masterful 
intellect devoted only to pillage and plunder. 

In such a frame of mind I left the engine- 
room and mounted to 'the upper deck, to hear 
the cry, " Land on the port-bow." 

It was the coast of Ireland, they told me ; 
and I know not if I have ever had a greater 
pleasure than that distant view of my own country 
gave to me. For it was as though I had passed 
from a dead land to the land of man, from the 
silent ways of night to the first breaking of the 
God-sent day. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

THE ROBBERY OF THE " BELLONIC." 

OUR view of the distant shore of Ireland was a 
fleeting one ; and we passed thence almost im- 
mediately to the open sea, steaming due S.W. for 
some hours, but at no great pace. It was not until 
daybreak on the following morning that we reached 
the track of ocean-bound ships ; but our voyage 
was altogether in favour of Black, for the sun had 
scarce risen when Doctor Osbart got me from my 
bed to see what he called my first introduction to 
business. 

" There's the Red Cross Line's Bellonic not a 
mile off on the starboard quarter," cried he exult- 
ingly, " and we're going to clear her. Come out, 
man, and get the finest breakfast you ever tasted." 

I dressed anyhow, almost as excited as he was, 
and stepped on to the gallery, to see a rolling waste 
of dull-green breakers, and a sky washed with 
broken thunder-clouds, through which the risen 
sun was struggling. The wind was keen from the 
south, and drove a fine rain, which lashed the face 
as with a whip ; while much spray broke upon us 
and there was moaning of the cowls and the 



286 THE IRON PIRATE. 

shrouds, and many signs of more wind to come. 
These atmospheric difficulties troubled no one, 
however, for all eyes were turned to the north, 
where, now almost abreast of us, at a distance of 
half a mile or less, there was the long and mag- 
nificent hull of the great liner. She was then in 
the full sunlight, a fine spectacle ; and I could see 
her bare decks, trodden only by the watch, while a 
solitary officer paced the bridge. The contrast 
between her sleepy inactivity and our keen alert- 
ness was very marked, for all hands trod our decks, 
and there was a restlessness and an evident ferocity 
amongst the little group upon the bridge which 
marked a purpose brooking no delay. 

I had begun to ask myself when the work would 
be done, for the liner went at a tremendous pace and 
was rapidly leaving us, when I got my answer with 
the crash of the great gun forward, and the sight of 
a shell ploughing the sea fifty yards ahead of the 
Bellonic. The cries of " Well shot, Swearing 
Dick ! " had not died away before the effect of the 
call was seen upon the great vessel, whose decks 
were soon dotted with black objects, while three 
more men appeared on the bridge, and the signal 
flags ran up, and were answered by us. " Four- 
Eyes" was at our mast, and interpreted the message 
to Black, who followed all that was done without 
betrayal of emotion, but only with the savage 
anticipation of the predatory instinct. 

u Signal to 'em to lie to, if they don't want to 



THE IRON PIRATE. 287 

go to hell," he said between his teeth, and " Four- 
Eyes " answered : 

" Ay, ay, sorr '' ; then, as the signal came, " He 
sez uz he'll say us at blazes afore he bates a knot." 

" Give it him for'ard then, and teach him," 
roared Black ; and the shot that answered his 
command struck the quivering hull not twenty 
feet from the windlass, and you could see the 
splinters carried fifty feet in the air, while the 
shrieks of terror came over the sea to us, and 
were piercing then. 

" What's he say now ? " asked the Captain, 
cooler than even at the beginning of the work. 

u Says as he'll make it warm for ye at New 
York, and if ye come aboard, it's on yer own head, 
an' ye swing fer it he'll not stop till ye disable 
him." 

" The thick-headed vermin," hissed Black ; 
" give him another, amidships this time." 

The second shot made us reel and shiver as 
she left us ; but there was no hit, for we rolled 
much, and saw the shell burst on the far side of 
the liner. At this, and at the failure of a second 
attempt, the Captain lost patience, and gave the 
order 

u Full steam ahead, and clear the machine- 
guns." 

It was almost superb, I admit now, and the 
excitement of it was then upon me, to feel oui 
great ship quiver at the touch of the bell, and 



288 THE IRON PIRATE. 

bound forward with waves of foam and spray run- 
ning from her decks, and each plate on her strain- 
ing as though the mighty force of the engines 
below would rend it from its fellows. 

I had not before known the limit of her speed, 
or what she could do when driven as she then 
was ; and the truth amazed me, while it filled me 
with a strange exultation. For we, who had dallied 
heretofore behind the other, sped beyond her as an 
express train passes the droning goods ; and coming 
about, in a great circle, we descended upon her as 
a goshawk upon the quarry. 

The machine-guns upon our decks were already 
cleared ; the men were stripped, ready for the fray, 
as tigers for their food. Indeed, before I quite 
understood the purport bf the manoeuvre, we were 
passing the Bel Ionic at a distance of not more than 
fifty yards ; and at that moment it seemed as if all 
the furies of hell were let loose upon our decks. 

Screaming like wild beasts, the men turned the 
handles of the Maxim guns ; the balls rained upon 
the defenceless liner as hail upon a sheepfold. I 
heard fierce curses and dull groans ; I saw strong 
men reel and fall their length as death took them ; 
the breeze bore to me the wailing of women and 
the sobs of children. 

But we had done the foul work in the one 
passage, for the flag dropped at once upon the 
liner, and the signal was made to us to come 
aboard. We had gained a horrid triumph, if such 



THE IRON PIRATE. 289 

you could call the murders, and it remained but to 
divide the spoil. 

" Lower away the launch, you John ! " cried 
Black, '' and take every shilling you can lay hands 
on. You hear me ? and hang up that skipper for 
a thin-skinned fool." 

" By thunder, I'm yours all along," replied 
" Roaring John " ; and then he sang out, " Hands 
for the launch ! " 

" You'd better go as cox," said Osbart 
to me, " you'll be amused " ; and suggested it 
to Black, who turned upon me a look almost of 
hate. 

" Yes, he shall go," he cried ; " if we swing, he 
shall swing, the preaching lubber ! Let him get 
aboard, or I'll kick him there." 

I had loathing at the thought of it, but might 
as well have put a pistol to my head there and 
then as to have refused. They bundled me into 
the launch, and I sat shivering at the prospect of 
the terrors on the deck ; but they would not leave 
me when they came alongside, and u Roaring John " 
himself drove me up the ladder which was put out 
amidships. Seven of us at last stood on the bridge, 
and were face to face with the captain of the 
Bcllomc, and four of his officers. 

I have said that I feared the terrors of that 
deck, but the reality surpassed the conception. 

It was a very babel of sounds, of groans, of 
weeping. The ship's surgeon himself seemed 
J* 



290 THE IRON PIRATE. 

paralysed before the sight of the carnage around 
him. You looked along the length of the vessel, 
and it was as though you looked upon the scene of 
a bloody battle, for there were dead almost in heaps, 
and wounded screaming, and streams of blood, and 
fragments of wreckage as though the ship had been 
under fire for many hours. But above all this 
terror, I know of nothing which struck me with 
such fearful sorrow as the sight of a fair young 
English girl lying by the door of the great saloon, 
her arms extended, her nut-brown hair soaked in 
her own blood, while a man knelt over her, and 
you could see his tears falling upon her dead face, 
and his ravings were incoherent and almost those 
of a maniac. At the sight of us he jumped to his 
feet, and shrieked " Murderers ! " so continuously 
that the echo of his cry rang in my ears that day 
and for many days. 

Meanwhile another scene was passing on the 
bridge between the man John and the captain of 
the Bellonic. 

" What do you want aboard of my ship ? " cried 
the latter ; and " Roaring John " answered him 
with a mocking leer : 

" We've come aboard to hang you, to begin 
on!" 

The men with the young officer cocked their 
revolvers at this, and I said in a mad frenzy which 
would not brook silence 

" You scoundrel, if you touch another soul here 



THE IRON PIRATE. 291 

I'll shoot you myself ! " for I had my revolver on 
me. '' Do you make a business of killing children ?" 
I cried again, and pointed to the dead body of the 
girl-child. 

I don't know who was more surprised, the 
captain of the Bellontc, listening, or the man 
John. 

" You cub," he cried ; " if you talk to me 
I'll skin you alive ! " But I said quickly 

" Gentlemen, these men want every shilling 
on this ship. Give it them now and save your 
lives, for you have no alternative. If you give 
the money up, you have my word that they 
won't touch you." 

" If there's a God above," exclaimed the 
young captain, " they shall pay for this day's 
work with their lives. I hand my specie over 
under this protest ; but don't deceive yourselves 
half the war-ships in Europe shall follow you 
within a week." 

He turned away, and presently the ruffians 
with me had lowered money to the value of a 
hundred and fifty thousand pounds into their 
launch. The third mate seemed then somewhat 
cowed by my interference, and though he went 
round the ship and cried " Bail up ! " every time 
he met a passenger, he did not touch one of 
them. I remained on the bridge a silent spec- 
tator of it all; and when at last we put off again, 
and the launch was full of the jewels and the 



2Q 2 THE IRON PIRATE 

money, it seemed that I had passed through a 
hideous dream. 

At the time, I shrank from the ruffians in 
the boat as from men who were savage fiends 
and a hundred times assassins; and their brutality 
of speech and threat fell upon ears that would 
not hear ; nor did their pretence of doing me 
violence then and there move me one jot. I 
maintained a stubborn indifference, my pistol still 
in my hand, my teeth shut in the defiance of 
them, until we reached the great craft, and joined 
Black upon the gallery. There, the man John 
explained that I had stood between him and his 
purpose of hanging the skipper of the Bellonic ; 
indeed, with such warmth and anger, that I 
thought my end had come upon the spot. 

" You barking cub," said Black, more quietly 
than usual, but none the less to be feared for 
that, " what d'ye mean by interfering with my 
men and my orders ? " 

" To save you from yourself," I answered, 
looking him full in the face ; " you've killed 
children on that ship, if that's news to you ! " 

He had a spy-glass in his hand, and he 
raised it as though to strike me ; but I continued 
to look him full in the face, and he remained 
swaying his body slightly, his arm still above 
his head. Then, suddenly it dropped at his side, 
as though paralysed ; and he turned away from 
me. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 293 

"Get to your kennel,'' said he; "and don't 
leave it till I fetch you." 

I was glad to escape, if only for a few 
moments, from the danger of it ; and I went 
to my cabin in the upper gallery, but not before 
the angry shouts of the men convinced me that 
Black had riskel much on my behalf for the 
second time. Even when my own door was 
locked upon me, such cries as " You're afeared 
of him!" "Is he going to boss you, skipper!" 
and other jeers were audible to me ; and the 
uproar lasted for some time, accompanied at last 
by the sound of blows, and cries as of men 
whipped. But no one came to me except the 
negro who brought my meals ; and whatever 
danger there was of a mutinv was averted, as 
Dr. Osbart told me later in the day, by the 
appearance of a second passenger ship on the 
horizon. The report of the single shot, by which 
we brought her to, shook me in my berth, where 
I lay thinking of the horrid scenes of the morn- 
ing ; and for some time I scarce dared look from 
my window, lest they should be repeated. 
Only after a long silence did I open the port, 
and see a majestic vessel, not a hundred 
yards from us, with our launch at her side ; 
and I could make out the forms of our men 
walking amongst the passengers and robbing 
them. 

The details of this attack Osbart told me with 



294 THE IRON PIRATE. 

keen relish when he came in to smoke a cigar 
with me after my dinner. 

" We stripped them without killing a man," 
said he with hilarious satisfaction, " and took 
fifty thousand. Black's pleased ; for, to tell you 
the truth, there's an ugly spirit aboard amongst 
the men, and you upset them altogether this 
morning. I never saw another who could have 
said what you said to the skipper and have 
lived ; but you mustn't show on deck for a day 
or two they'd murder you to pass time ; and, 
as it is, we've had to post a man at your door, 
or I doubt if you'd save your skin in here." 

" You seem to be making a paying cruise," 
I said sarcastically. 

" Yes ; and it's funny, for the sea is swarming 
with war vermin. Don't you feel the pace we're 
going now ? I expect we're showing our heels 
to one of them, and shall show them a good 
many times between this and the first of next 
month, though Karl below is grumbling about 
the oil again : you want gallons of it with gas- 
engines. If we don't pick up the tender to- 
morrow, it's a bad look-out." 

He did not come to me again for three days, 
but I saw from my port early the following 
morning that the tender was with us ; and I con- 
cluded regretfully that the difficulty of the oil was 
overcome. On the second day after the robbery 
of the Bellomc^ we stopped a third ship ; though 



THE IRON PIRATE. 295 

I saw nothing of it, as all the fighting was on 
the starboard side, and my cabin was to port ; 
but there was a sharp fight on the third morning 
with a Cape-bound vessel, and again towards the 
afternoon with one of the North-German Lloyd 
boats homeward bound to Bremerhaven : as be- 
fore, Osbart, coming to my rooms, delighted to 
give me the details of the captures ; and that 
night he was unusually frivolous. 

" Poor business to-day," he said, throwing 
himself into a lounge and lighting a cigar ; " not 
an ounce of specie, and no jewellery to mention 
and there was no killing, so don't put on that 
face of yours. Why, my dear boy, it was a 
perfect farce ! I, myself, argued for twenty 
minutes with an old woman, who sat mewing 
like a cat on her box, and when I got her off 
it, thinking she had a thousand in diamonds, it 
was full of baby linen. And I'll tell you a 
better thing. An old Dutch Jew threw a two- 
penny-halfpenny bundle into the sea, and then 
he was so sick with himself that he went in 
after it. We hooked him out by the breeches 
with a boat-hook ; but I believe he wished him- 
self dead with the bundle. As for ' Four-Eyes,' 
he took what he thought was five hundred in 
notes from a card-player, but they're bad, dear 
boy, bad every one of them." 

u You don't seem very depressed about it," 
said I. 



496 THE IRON PIRATE 

"Don't I?" replied he. "Well, things aren't 
all they should be. The tender we sent to Liver- 
pool came out in a hurry, as they began to 
watch her, with a mere bucketful of oil aboard. 
We must get oil from somewhere or we shall 
all swing as sure as we're doing twenty-eight 
knots now. That's what I've come to tell you 
about to-night. The skipper can't stand it any 
more, and is going to run to England himself, 
and see what those mighty smart naval people 
of yours are doing. He'll take you with him, 
for it would be as good as signing your death- 
warrant to leave you here. Don't count upon 
it, though, for we shan't let you out of our 
sight, and you've got to swear a pretty big oath 
not to give us away before you set foot on the 
tender. v 

I was overjoyed at his saying, but I feared 
to let him see it, and asked with nonchalance 
" How do you pick up this ship again ? " 

" Oh, we fix a position," he replied, " and 
they'll keep it every day at mid- day after ten 
days. Meanwhile we're running north out of the 
track of the cruisers." 

" I can't quite understand why the skipper 
takes me with him this time," I remarked, en- 
deavouring to draw him, but he answered 

" No more can I ; between ourselves, he's 
been half daft ever since you came aboard. Do 
you know that the man's more fond of you, in 



THE IRON PIRATE. 297 

his way, than of any living thing ? I know it. 
I'm the only man on the ship who does know 
it, and why it is I can't tell you. I didn't think 
he was capable of a human feeling.'' 

"It's very good of him to waste so much 
affection on me," said I, meaning to be derisive, 
but Osbart checked me. 

"Don't laugh," he exclaimed; "you owe your 
life to him alone." 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

I GO TO LONDON. 

IT was a week after this conversation that 
Captain Black, Dr. Osbart, and myself entered 
the 7.30 train from Ramsgate ; leaving in the 
outer harbour of that still quaint town the screw 
tender, now disguised, with the man John and 
eight of the most turbulent among the crew 
of the nameless ship aboard her. We had come 
without hindrance through the crowded waters 
of the Channel ; and, styling ourselves a Nor- 
wegian whaler in ballast, had gained the difficult 
harbour without arousing suspicion. At the first, 
Black had thought to leave me on the steamer ; 
but I, who had an insatiable longing to set 
foot ashore again, gave him solemn word that 
I would not seek to quit him, that I would 
not in any way betray him while the truce 
lasted, and that I would return, wherever I 
was, to the tender in the harbour at the end 
of a week. He concluded the conditions with 
the simple words, " I'm a big fool, but you can 
come." The others opened their eyes and 
tapped their foreheads, for they believed him 
to be a maniac. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 299 

I will not pause to tell you my own thoughts 
when I set foot on shore again. So great was 
my amazement at it all that I went some time 
without collecting myself to see that the in- 
visible hand of God, which had led me all 
through, was leading me again even, as I 
hoped, to the consummation of it. Fearless in 
this new thought, I sat in the corner of the 
first-class carriage reserved for us in such a state 
of exultation and of hope as few men can have 
known. Before me were the downs of Kent, the 
open face of an English landscape, the orchard- 
bound homesteads, the verdurous pasture-land. 
The hedges were bedecked with their late 
autumn flowers ; the teams and smock-frocked 
men were going home to the gabled houses, and 
the warm-lit cottages. There was odour of the 
harvest yet in the air and the distant chiming 
of bells from the Gothic tower which rose above 
the hamlet and the knoll of green. Each little 
town we passed cast from its windows bright rays 
upon the tremulous twilight ; a great bar of fiery 
redness cut the lower black of the coming night, 
showing me in shadow the rising of land towards 
Chatham and towards London. Yet it was the 
peace of the scene that came to me with the 
greatest power ; the many tokens of home 
above all, the thought " I am in England." T 
could not help but carry my memory at this 
time to the last occasion when, with Roderick 



300 THE IRON PIRATE. 

and Mary, I had come to London in the very 
hope of getting tidings of this man who now sat 
with me in a Kent-Coast express. Where were 
the others then the girl who had been as a 
sister to me, and the man as a brother ; how 
far had the fear of my death made sad that 
childish face which had known such little sad- 
ness in its sixteen years of life ? It was odd 
to think that Mary might be then returned 
to London, and that I, whom perchance she 
thought dead, was near to her, and yet, in a 
sense, more cut off from her than in the grave 
itself. And Black, whom all the Governments 
were pursuing so lustily, was at my side smoking 
a great cigar, apparently oblivious to all sense 
of danger or of hazard. Life has many con- 
trasts, but it never had a stranger than that, 
I feel sure. 

It was after ten o'clock that the ride termin- 
ated ; and, following Black and Osbart into a 
closed carriage that awaited us, I was driven 
from the station. I should say that we drove 
for fifteen minutes or more, staying at last be- 
fore a house in a narrow cul-de-sac, where we 
went upstairs to a suite of rooms reserved for 
us. After an excellent supper Osbart left us. 
but Black took me to a double-bedded room, 
saying that he could not let me out of his sight, 
and that I must share the sleeping-place with 
him. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 301 

u Boy, if you make one attempt to play me 
false," said he, u I'll blow your brains out, though 
you were my own son." 

Then he went to bed at once in a morose 
and foreboding mood, and I followed his ex- 
ample quickly. 

On the next morning Black quitted the house 
at an early hour after breakfast, but he locked 
the door of the room upon Osbart and myself. 
" Not," as he said, " because I can't take your 
word, but because I don't want anyone fooling 
in here." He returned in the evening, at seven 
o'clock, and found me as he had left me, read- 
ing a later novel of Paul Bourget's ; for Osbart 
had slept all the afternoon, and was always com- 
plaining when on shore. 

The view from the window upon a balcony 
of lead and the back windows of near houses 
was not inviting, and my bond had held me 
back from all idle thoughts of eluding him. 
Life in London under such conditions was little 
preferable to life on the ship, and I had no 
heart to hear Black's stories of things doing in 
town ; or to examine the many purchases of 
miniatures and quaint old jewels, which he had 
laid on the dinner-table. 

The day following was Thursday. I shall 
always remember it, for I regard it as one of the 
most memorable days in my life. Black went out 
as usual early in the morning ; his object being, 



302 THE IRON PIRATE. 

as on the preceding day, to find out, if he 
could, what the Admiralty were doing in view of 
the robbery of the Bellonic ; and Osbart, refusing 
to get up to breakfast, lay in bed reading the 
morning papers. We had been left thus about 
the space of an hour when there came a tele- 
gram for the doctor, who read it with a fierce 
exclamation. 

" The Captain wants me urgently," said he, 
" and there's nothing to do but to leave you 
here. We are trusting absolutely to you, now ; 
but be quite sure, if you make half a move to 
betray us, it will be the last you will ever make. 
I may return here in ten minutes. You must 
put up with the indignity of being locked in ; 
and, dear boy, don't trouble yourself to look for 
sympathy in this place, for the man who owns 
this house is one of us, and, if you call out, you'll 
get a rap on the head pretty quickly." 

He went out jauntily, and I watched him, 
little thinking that I should never see him again. 
When he was gone I sat in the great armchair, 
pulling it to the window, and taking up my 
book. The sensation of being alone in the centre 
of London, and unable by my oath to make 
the slightest attempt to help myself, was most 
curious ; yet with it all I could not but think 
that I had touched the culminating point, and 
was near to the ending of it for good or for ill. 
From the window of my room I could hear 



THE IRON PIRATE. 303 

the hum of town, the rumbling of 'buses, and 
the subdued roar of London awake. I could 
even see people in the houses at the other side 
of the leads, and it occurred to me, What if 
I open that casement and call for help ? I had 
given a pledge, it is true ; but should a pledge 
bind under such conditions ? The sanctity of an 
oath is a fine thing for theological subtlety. 
I had no such subtlety. I knew that the ar- 
gument in favour of wrong is pleasing to the 
mental palate ; and I put it from me, believing 
that the breaking of my bond would put me 
upon the immoral plane of the men to whom it 
had been given. 

I was in the very throes of such a mental 
struggle when the strange event of the day hap- 
pened. I chanced to look up from the book I 
had been trying to read, and I saw a remark- 
able object upon the leads outside my window. 
It was the figure of a man with a collapsible 
neck, a wonderful neck, which expanded appal- 
lingly, and again was withdrawn into a narrow 
and herring-like chest. The fellow might have been 
thirty years of age ; he might have been fifty ; 
there was no hair on his face, no colour in his 
hollow cheeks ; only a nervous movement of the 
bony fingers, and that awful craning of the col- 
lapsible neck. I saw in a moment that he was 
looking into my room ; and presently, when he 
had given me innumerable nods and winks, he 



304 THE IRON PIRATE. 

took a knife from his pocket, and opened the 
catch, stepping into the chamber with the nimble 
foot of a goat upon a crag-path. Then he drew 
a chair up to mine, and, making more signs and 
inexplicable motions of the eye, he slapped me 
upon the knee, and said 

" In the name of the law ! " 

This was uttered with such ridiculous levity 
that I laughed at him. 

" Yes," he went on, unmoved, u I take you 
by surprise ; but business, Mr. Mark Strong," 
and he became very serious, while his neck went 
out like a yard-measure and he cast a quick 
glance round the room. 

" Business," he said, when he had satisfied him- 
self that we were alone,, " and in two words. In 
the first place I have wired to your iriend, Mr. 
Roderick Stewart, and I expect him from Ports- 
mouth in a couple of hours ; in the second, your 
other friend, the doctor, is under lock and key, on 
the trifling charge of murder in the Midlands, to 
begin with. When we have Captain Black, the 
little party will be complete." 

I looked at him, voiceless from the surprise of 
it. The magical neck was absorbed in the chest 
again, and he went on 

" I needn't tell you who I am ; but there's my 
card. We have six men in the street outside, and 
another half dozen watching the leads here. You 
will be sensible enough to follow my instructions 



THE IRON PIRATE. 305 

absolutely. Black, we know, leaves the country 
to-night in his steamer yesterday at Ramsgate ; 
to-day we do not know where. The probability is 
that he will come to fetch you at seven o'clock 
I have frightened it all out of the people down- 
stairs if he does, you will go with him. Otherwise, 
he's pretty sure to send someone for you, and, as 
you at the moment are our sole link between that 
unmitigated scoundrel and his arrest, I ask you to 
risk one step more, and return at any rate as far as 
the coast, that we may follow him for the last time. 
You'll do that for us ? " 

I looked at his card, whereon was the inscrip- 
tion, " Detective-Inspector King, Scotland Yard " ; 
and I said at once 

"'I shall not only go to the coast, but to his 
tender, for I've given my word. What you may 
do iu the meantime is not my affair ; but " 

" Yes," he said eagerly, craning his neck again, 
" ' for God's sake keep your eye on me,' that's what 
you were going to say. Well, we shall do it. We 
owe it to you that we've got any clue to the man, 
and you're not likely to lose anything from the 
Government by what you've done." 

" I suppose he's made a sensation ? " I asked, in 
simplicity, and he looked as a man who has yester- 
day's news. 

" Sensation ! There's been no such stir since 
the French war. There isn't another subject talked 
of in any house in Europe but, read that ; and. 



306 THE IRON PIRATE. 

whatever you do, don't make a sign until we give 
you the cue. It's not safe for me to stay here ; he 
may return any minute. I wish you luck of it ; 
and it's ten thousand in my pocket, any way ! " 

Detective-Inspector King went as he had come, 
craning his neck and passing noiselessly over the 
leads ; but he left me a newspaper, wherein there 
was column after column concerning the robbery of 
the Bellonic, and a dish worthy of all journalistic 
sensation-mongering. I read this with avidity ; 
with sharp appetite for the extraordinary hope 
which had come so curiously into my life. At 
last, the police were on the trail of Captain Black ; 
yet I saw at once that, lacking my help, he would 
elude them. It was strange that, after all, I, who 
had seemed to fail so hopelessly in my enterprise, 
should at last bring this giant in crime to justice. 
For, if he had not burdened himself with me, he 
would then have left in the tender, and, once on 
the nameless ship, would have defied the world. 
But now they watched him ; and from the solitude 
of my imprisonment I seemed to be lifted in a 
moment to a joyous state of expectation and ex- 
citement. 

It was then about three o'clock in the afternoon. 
I heard the hour from a neighbouring church ; and 
I recalled the detective's words, " I have telegraphed 
for your friend, Roderick." If his anticipations 
were correct, I should see the one man I had the 
greatest love for within an hour. Yet, on recollec- 



THE IRON PIRATE. 307 

tion, I would have had it otherwise. If once I 
looked on Mary's face again, I knew that the task 
would be almost beyond my strength ; and as it 
happened, it was well I had not this burden to bear 
in the last hours of the great struggle. For four 
o'clock struck, and five, and no one came ; and it 
was half-past six when at last a man unlocked the 
door of my room and entered. He was one of 
Black's negroes. 

" Sar will come quick," said he, u and leave his 
luggage. The master waits." 

He gave me no time for any explanations, but 
took me by the arm, and, passing from the house 
by a back door, he went some way down a narrow 
street, and turned into Piccadilly. There a cab 
waited for us, and we drove away, but not before 
one, who stood on the pavement, had made a slight 
signal to me, and called another cab. 

In him I recognised Detective-Inspector King, 
and I knew that we were followed. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE SHADOW ON THE SEA. 

WE drove rapidly, passing the Criterion, so into 
the Strand, and along the Thames Embankment. 
Thence, we went through Queen Victoria Street, 
past the Mansion House, and to Fenchurch Street 
Station, where we took a train for Tilbury. 

The journey was accomplished in something 
under an hour; and when we alighted and got 
upon the bank of the river, I saw a steam-launch 
with the man John in' the bows of her. I thought 
it strange that there was no sign of any watchers 
at this place ; but I entered the launch without a 
word, and we started immediately, going at a great 
pace towards Sheerness ; and reached the Nore 
after some buffet with the seas in the open. At 
this point we sighted the tender, and went aboard 
her, while they hauled up the launch, when we 
made full speed towards the North Foreland. 

It was then quite dark, with a stiff breeze blow- 
ing right abaft. The night, a moonless and very 
black one, favoured us altogether for the run which, 
I did not doubt, we had to make against some 
Government vessel that would follow us. But I 
found to my surprise that the men on the ship 



THE IRON PIRATE. 309 

knew nothing of the dangerous position in which 
they were, and worked with a calm disregard to 
the blackness of the night, and to the hazard of 
the moment. Black I did not meet, for they put 
me into a cabin aft, of which I was the sole oc- 
cupant ; and, being ordered by the man John, who 
was half-drunk and very threatening, to get below, 
I turned in shortly after coming aboard, and lay 
down to reckon with the strange probabilities of 
the hour. 

One thing was very evident. Black had made 
a colossal mistake, from his point of view, in setting 
foot in England ; but the crowning blunder of his 
life was that fatal act of folly by which he had 
sought to shield me from the men. How long the 
Government had been watching for him, or for 
tidings of me, I could not tell, but it must have 
been since Roderick had reached New York, and 
had told all he knew of the ship of mystery and of 
her owner. 

Now the object of letting Black reach his vessel 
again was as clear as daylight ; it was not so much 
the man as his ship which they wished to take, 
and, by following him to the Atlantic, they were 
giving him rope to hang himself. 

But were we followed ? I had seen nothing to 
lead me to that conclusion as I came down the 
Thames ; and now, favoured by an intensely dark 
night, we promised, if nothing should intervene, to 
gain the Atlantic in two days, and to be aboard 



3 io THE IRON PIRATE. 

that strange citadel which was our stronghold 
against the nations. 

This thought troubled me very much, so much 
that sleep was out of the question, and I went 
above again, undeterred by the probability of a 
difference with the men. The night was some- 
what clearer when I reached the poop, and I 
could make out the fine flood of light that came 
from the North Foreland ; while it was evident 
that we had taken the outer passage and should 
pass on the French side of the Goodwins. There 
were no men aft as I took my stand by the 
second wheel, but I heard the bawl of the watch 
forward, and a man who wore oilskins was pacing 
the bridge. I was able, therefore, to get a good 
notion of all things ,about us ; and when the 
moon showed later, the Channel seemed full of 
ships. Away towards the Foreland I made out 
a fleet of French luggers standing in close to 
shore ; there were two or three colliers returning 
to the Thames on our port -bow, and some 
English smacks lying-to right ahead of us, the 
moon showing them brightly in a lake of light, 
their men busy at the nets, or huddled at the 
tiller as the smacks rolled to a choppy sea. 
But there was no sign of any war-ship pursuing ; 
no indication whatever that the tender, then 
steaming at thirteen knots towards Dover, was 
watched or observed by any living being. 

I had just satisfied myself of this, and had 



THE IRON PIRATE. 311 

become depressed accordingly, when I heard a 
step behind me. I turned round quickly, to find 
that the man John had come up to the poop. 
He was in his oilskins, for there was some sea 
shipped tbr'ard, and he greeted me with a savage 
ferocity which was meant to be pleasant. 

" Keeping a watch on your own hook, my 
fine gentleman, eh ? " said he ; " and after my 
orders for you to be abed that's pretty discipline, 
I reckon.'' 

I made no sort of answer, but turned my 
back on him, and continued to watch the 
twinkling lights of Deal. This appeared to 
irritate him, for he put his hand on my shoulder 
roughly, and hissed savagely 

u Oh, I guess ; you've got your fine coat, 
ain't you, and your pretty airs ! Darn me if I 
don't take you down a peg, skipper or no 
skipper ! " 

His great hand was almost on my throat, 
and he shook me with fearful grip, so that I 
hit him with my right hand just below his 
heart, and bent him double like a reed. His 
terrible gasps for breath were so alarming that 
I thought at first he would never recover his 
wind ; but when he did he drew his knife, and 
raised his arm to take aim at my throat. It is 
probable that my life had been ended there and 
then had not another watched the scene and 
suddenly clutched the extended wrist. Captain 



312 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Black had come to us with noiseless step ; and 
he gave me then my first knowledge of his 
prodigious physical strength, for he held John's 
arm as in a vice, and, giving the ruffian's wrist 
a peculiar turn, he sent the knife flying in the 
air, and it stuck quivering in the deck twenty 
feet from where we stood. 

" You long-jawed bully, what d'ye mean by 
that ? " cried the skipper, white with anger ; and 
then he twisted the fellow's arm until I thought 
he would have broken it. Nor did he let him 
go until he had kicked him the length of the 
poop, and tumbled him, torn and bleeding, upon 
the main hatch below. 

" Lay your finger on the boy again, and I'll 
give you six dozen,", he said quietly; and then 
he came to my side, and he stood for a long 
while leaning on the bulwarks and gazing over 
towards the receding shore. He spoke to me at 
last, but in a more gentle tone than I had ever 
heard from him indeed, there was almost kind- 
liness in his voice. 

" Do you make out anything of a big ship 
yonder ? " he asked, pointing almost abaft. 

" I see nothing but the hull of a collier ? '' 
said I. 

" Then it's my sight that's plaguing me 
again,' and he continued to look as though he 
had some great purpose in satisfying himself, 
while from the fo'castle there came shouts of 



THE IRON PIRATE. 313 

laughter and singing. When he heard this he 
spoke again, but almost to himself. 

" Shout away, you scum,'' he muttered ; 
" shout while you can. It'll be a different tune 
to-morro\v." 

I was leaning then on the bulwarks almost 
at his side, and presently he addressed himself 
directly to me, and earnestly. 

" We had a narrow shave to-night. It's put 
me out to leave the doctor, for he was the best 
of them one of the only men that I could 
reckon on. If it hadn't been for him and the 
Irishman, this lot would have swung long ago 
maybe they'll swing now. The hounds have 
got the scent ; and, God knows, they will follow 
it ! It's lucky for some of them that I had 
twenty pairs of eyes open for me in London, 
and knew the Government's game in time to 
get this tender out of Ramsgate ; but you mark 
me, boy, there's trouble coming, and thick. I've 
gone out without a gallon of oil again, and by- 
and-by we're going to run for our necks, every 
man of us." 

" What makes you think that ? " I asked. 

"What makes me think that? why, my 
senses. They'll follow us from some port here, 
as sure as the wind's rising ; maybe they'll let 
us get aboard the ship, and then that'll be the 
beginning of it. But if we only hold out with 

the oil, then let 'em take care of themselves " 

K 



3 i 4 THE IRON PIRATE 

" And if not ? " 

He shrugged his shoulders and was silent ; 
but anon he asked again what I thought of a 
long, rakish -looking steamer lying some miles 
away on the starboard quarter, and when I had 
satisfied him he said 

" Come downstairs and get some wine into 
you, boy " ; and I went below to his small and 
not very elegant cabin, where he put champagne 
and glasses on the table. 

" Let's drink against the thirst we'll have 
to-morrow," cried he, getting quite jovial, and 
pouring the Pommery down his throat as though 
it had been beer. " This is an occasion such as 
we shan't often know the old ship against 
Europe, and one man against the lot of them ! 
Why, lad, if it wasn't for the thought of the 
oil, I'd get up and dance. The lubbers could 
no more lay a finger on me, given fair fight, 
than they could touch the moon. You see, it's 
just the oil that Karl's feared all along; drive 
by gas, and you want twenty times the grease in 
your cylinders that you'll ever need in a steam- 
ship. If there hadn't been that break-up north, 
we'd never have been in this hole ; but that's 
one of the risks of a game like this, and I'll play 
my hand out." 

He went on to talk of many other things, 
but as he did not speak of his own past, or of 
the ship, I began to nod with sleep ; and 



THE IRON PIRATE. 315 

presently I found him covering me up with a 
rug and turning out the lamp. I was dead 
worn-out then, and must have slept twelve 
hours at the least, for it was afternoon when I 
awoke, and the sun streamed in through the 
skylight upon a table whereon dinner was set. 
But Black was not in the cabin, and I went 
above to him on the bridge, which he paced 
with a restless step and a betraying haste. 
There was no land then to be seen ; but the 
clear play of sparkling waves shone away to the 
horizon over a tumbling sea, upon which were a 
few ships. Upon one of these he constantly 
turned his glass ; she was a long screw steamer, 
showing two funnels and three masts, away some 
miles on the port quarter, and I saw at once 
that from this ship the Captain got all his 
fear. 

" Do you make her out ? " he said in a big 
whisper directly I came up to him, and then, 
hushing me, he added "Keep ycur tongue still, 
and say nothing. That's a British cruiser in 
passenger paint. She's come out from Southamp- 
ton." 

This was about the very best bit of news he 
could have given me ; but I did not let him 
see that I thought so, for I had eyes only for 
the ship in our wake. She was a long boat of 
the Northumberland class ; but there was nothing 
whatever about her to betray her disguise, since 



3io THE IRON PIRATE. 

she had all the look of an Orient, or a P. and O. 
liner, and was too far away from us to permit a 
reading of her flag. The men evidently had not 
seen her, or took no notice of her if they had ; 
but John upon the bridge followed the move- 
ments of Black with curiosity, and once or twice 
turned his own glass on the black hull just 
visible above the horizon. He had forgotten the 
episode of the previous night when, undoubtedly, 
he was full of drink and was almost as troubled 
as the skipper. 

" What's he up to ? " he asked me in a 
whisper, as Black kept turning his glass towards 
the hull of the other ship. " Did he get any 
liquor in him last night ? I never saw him this 
way before." ' 

And again, after a pause 

" Have you got any eyes for that ship ? What's 
he fixing her like that for ? She's no more than 
an Orient boat by her jib, and if she lays on her 
course we'll make it warm for her outside." 

Black heard his last words, and turned round 
upon him savagely 

"Yes," he said, " it'll be warm enough out there 
for them as lives as well as for the dead. Ring 
down for more firing ; what's the lubber at ? he's 
not giving her thirteen knots." 

By-and-by all the crew began to observe Black's 
anxiety and to crowd to the starboard side ; but he 
told them nothing, although he never left the 



THE IRON PIRATE. 317 

bridge, and cursed fiercely whenever the speed of 
the tender slacked at all. It was somewhat per- 
plexing to me to observe that, while the great ship 
was undoubtedly following us, she did not gain a 
yard upon us. During the whole of that long 
afternoon, and through the watches of that early 
night, when I remained upon the bridge with 
Black, we kept our relative distances ; but, do all 
we could, the other would not be shaken off; and 
when, after a few hours' sleep, I came on deck at 
the dawn of the second day, she was still on our 
quarter, following like the vulture follows the living 
man whose hours are numbered. 

"There's no humbug about her game," cried 
Black, whose face was lined with the furrows of 
anxiety and pale with long watching ; " she means 
to take us on the open sea, and she's welcome to 
the course. If I don't riddle her like a sieve, stretch 
me!" 

This strange pursuit lasted three days and into 
the third night ; when I was awakened from a 
snatch of sleep by the firing of a gun above my 
head. I dressed hurriedly and got on deck, where 
my eyes were almost blinded by a great volume of 
light which spread over the sea from a point some 
two miles away on our starboard bow. We had 
been in the Atlantic then for twenty-four hours, 
and I did not doubt for a moment that we had 
reached the nameless ship. Had there been any 
uncertainty, the wild joy of the men would have 



3i8 THE IRON PIRATE. 

banished it. From windlass to wheel our decks 
presented a scene of wild excitement. Above all 
the shouting, the raucous laughter, and the threats 
against the cruiser whose lights showed then less 
than a mile away I heard the voice of Black, sing- 
ing : " Hands, stand by to lower boats ! '' and the 
yelping of "Roaring John." It seemed at that 
moment that we should gain the impregnable 
citadel without suffering one shot, and while T 
should have been happier if the attack had been 
upon the tender, and my chances of gaining the 
Government ship thus more sure, I was in a 
measure carried away by the excitement of the 
position, and I verily believe that I cheered with 
the others. 

At that moment the' cruiser showed her teeth. 
Suddenly there was a rush of flame from her bows, 
and a shell hissed above us the first sign of her 
attempt to stop us joining our own ship. The poor 
shooting excited only the derision of the men, who 
set up their wild u halloas ! " at it ; and again, when 
a second shot struck the aft mast and shivered it, 
they were provoked to boisterous merriment. But 
we could make no reply, and those on the nameless 
ship could not fire, for we lay right between them 
and the other. 

" Hands, lower boats ! " yelled Black at this 
moment, and then, leaving no more than ten or 
fifteen men in the steamer, he led the way to the 
launch. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 319 

We were now no more than a quarter of a miie 
from safety, but the run was full of peril, and, as 
the launch stood out, the nameless ship of a sudden 
shut off her light, if possible to shield us in the 
dark. But the pursuer instantly flooded us with 
her own arc, and, following it with quick shots, she 
hit the jolly-boat at the third. Of the eight men 
there, only two rose when the hull had disap 
peared. 

" Fire away, by thunder ! " cried Black, shaking 
his fist, and mad with passion ; " and get your 
hands in : you'll want all the bark you've got just 
now." 

But we had hauled the men aboard as he spoke, 
and, though two shells foamed in the sea and 
wetted us to the skin in the passage, we were at 
the ladder of the nameless ship without other 
harm, and with fierce shouts the men gained the 
decks. 

For them it was a glorious moment. They 
had weathered the perils of a city, and stood where 
they could best face the crisis of the pursuit. It 
was a spectacle to move the most stolid apathy : 
the sight of a couple of hundred demoniacal figures 
lighted by the great white wave of light from the 
enemy's ship, their faces upturned as they waited 
Black's orders, their hands flourishing knives and 
cutlasses, their hunger for the contest betrayed 
in every gesture. I stood upon the gallery high 
above the seas, and looked down upon the motley 



320 THE IRON PIRATE. 

company, or along the space of the hazy arc to the 
other vessel, and I asked myself again and again, 
What if we shall win what if this desperate ad- 
venturer shall again outwit those who have coped 
with him, and hold his mastery of the sea ? 

Nor did it seem so improhable that he would. 
Those upon the Government cruiser betrayed their 
uneasiness every moment by casting the beams of 
their searchlight on every point of the horizon ; 
but their signal was unanswered, no assuring rays 
shone out in the distant blackness of the night. 
We two were alone upon the Atlantic, there to 
fight the duel of the nations ; and I confess that 
in the unparalleled excitement of the moment I 
rejoiced that it was so ; I hoped, even, that the 
nameless ship would carry the hour, so much had 
she fascinated me, so astounding were her achieve- 
ments. 

This truly was the critical moment in Black's 
career. He stepped on the bridge to find Karl 
wringing his hands, and " Four- Eyes " was no less 
uneasy. 

" Faith, sorr," said he, as soon as we had come 
aboard, " it's bad times intoirely if ye've no oil 
we've been working two engines for three days, 
and we'll be sore put to ut to kape the third going, 
if ye can't mend us." 

Karl emphasised the words with stamps and 
tears and frantic gesticulation not lost upon 
Black, who advanced to the front of the bridge. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 321 

and called for silence in a voice that would have 
split a berg. A deathlike stillness succeeded ; you 
could hear the wash of the waves and the moaning 
of the wind : two hundred upturned faces shone 
ghastly white under the spreading beams which 
the cruiser's lantern cast upon them. 

" Boys," cried Black, il yonder's a Government 
ship. You know me, that I don't run after war- 
scum every day, for that's not my business. But 
we're short of oil, and the cylinders are heating. 
If we don't get it in twenty-four hours, there'll 
be devil's work, and we shan't do it. Boys, it's 
swing or take that ship and the oil aboard her 
which'll you have ? " 

There was no doubt about their answer there 
could be none. In one way it was almost as if the 
cruiser herself gave reply, for there was the roar of 
a great gun when Black had finished speaking, and 
a shot hissed from above our poop and burst in the 
seas beyond us. A mighty shout followed, but was 
converted instantly into a cry of warning, as the 
forward hands sang out 

" Look out aft the torpedo ! " and other hands 
took up the cry, yelling '' The torpedo ! The 
torpedo ! " 

The tiny line of foam was just visible for a 
second in the way of the light ; but, the moment 
the cruiser had shot it from her tube, she extin- 
guished her arc, leaving us to light the waters 
with our own. There was no difficulty whatever 
K* 



322 THE IRON PIRATE. 

in following the line of the deadly message, and for 
a moment every heart, I doubt not, almost stood 
still. 

" Full speed astern ! " roared Black, forgetting 
himself, but instantly ringing the bell, and the 
nameless ship moved backwards, faster and yet 
faster. But the black death-bearer followed her, 
as a shark follows a death-ship ; we seemed even 
to have backed into its course it came on as 
though to strike us full amidships. 

The excitement was almost more than I could 
bear ; I turned away, waiting for the tremendous 
concussion ; I heard awful curses from the men, 
the cowardly shouting of " Roaring John," the 
blasphemies of "Dick the Ranter." I knew that 
Black alone was calm ; dnd at the last I fixed my 
eyes upon him when the head of the torpedo's 
foam was not thirty yards away from us. In that 
supreme moment the power of the man rose to a 
great height. He grasped the situation with the 
calmness of one thinking in bed ; and waiting 
motionless for some seconds, which were seconds 
almost of agony to the rest of us, he cried of a 
sudden 

" Hard a-starboard ! " and the helm went over 
with a run. 

The movement was altogether superb. The 
great ship swung round with a majestic sweep, 
and as we waited breathlessly, the torpedo passed 
right under our bow, missing the ram by a hair's- 



THE IRON PIRATE. 323 

breadth. The reaction was nigh intolerable ; the 
men waited for some seconds silent as the voice- 
less ; then their cheers rang away over the seas 
in a great volume of sound, which must have 
re-echoed down in the caverns of the Atlantic. 

"You, Dick," ordered Black, ''return the 
lubbers that, or I'll whip you ; " and Dick, who 
had got his wits back, replied 

" Skipper, if I dinna dive into their internals, 
gie me sax dozen." 

" Hands to quarters," continued the skipper ; 
" let no man * show himself till I call, then him 
as doesn't fight for all he's worth, let him pre- 
pare to swing." 

With this there fell a great busyness, the 
men going, some to the turrets, some to the 
magazines below. 

Black had not noticed me during the epi- 
sode of the torpedo, but he turned round now, 
and, seeing that I stood near him, he beckoned 
me into the conning-tower with him. It was a 
chamber lined with steel with a small glass for 
the look-out, and electric knobs which allowed 
communication with the engine-rooms, the wheel 
the turrets, and the magazines. From that pin- 
nacle of metal you could navigate the ship, and 
there Black fought the battle of that night and 
of the days following. And as I stood at his 
side I learned from his running comments much 
of the course of the fight. 



3 2 4 THE IRON PIRATE. 

i( Boy," he said, " what I'm worth I'm going 
to show this night ; and, as your eyes are j-ounger 
than mine, I'm going to borrow the loan of them. 
That hen-coop yonder with the Government flag 
on her isn't far from company, you may be 
pretty sure. She's help near, and from that help 
I'm going to cut her off, and quick. Take your 
stand here by me, and watch the seas while I 
manage the light." 

He had his hand upon a little tap which 
enabled him to throw the arc upon every point 
of the horizon, and, as the light ' travelled, he 
asked me 

u Do you make out anything ? Is there more 
of 'em at her heels ? " 

" Nothing that I can' see ; she seems alone." 

" Then God help her, though we're only run- 
ning two engines. Now watch the shot." 

The focus was then upon the cruiser, whose 
own light kept playing upon the horizon as 
though searching for a convoy she awaited. 
But when the conning-tower shook with the 
thunder of our fore gun, the other reeled, and 
her arc light went out with a great flash. 

" That's a hit," I exclaimed with ridiculous 
want of control ; " I believe you've hit her abaft 
the funnel. Yes, I can see the list on her ; you've 
hit her clean." 

His face never moved at the intelligence, but 
he rang the order " Hard to port ! " and we 



THE IRON PIRATE. 325 

weathered iround, showing our aft turret to the 
enemy, whose bark for the moment was stilled. 

" Watch again," said Black, as he rang to 
the turret chamber, and the aft gun roared ; 
but I could not see that the shot struck, and 
I told him so. 

" I'll give that parson a dozen if he does that 
again," he remarked, unmoved by the crash of a 
shot which struck us right under our turret. 
Then he took a cigar and spoke between his 
teeth when he had lighted it 

" There's twelve inches of steel there," he 
said with a laugh ; "let 'em knock on it and 
welcome. Don't you smoke ? I always do ; it 
keeps my head clear." 

Two more shots, one right above the engine- 
room and the second at the ram, answered his 
levity. 

" Come on, you devils ! " he blurted out with 
glee. u Come in and dance, by thunder, while I 
play ye the tune ! Now hearken to it." 

We came up again, and fired at the cruiser, 
hitting her right under the funnel, and a second 
time near her fore gun, so that you could see 
her reel and shiver even under the rays of the 
search-light. Nor did she answer our firing, but 
rolled to the swell apparently out of action. 
All this I could see, and I answered the skip- 
per's hurried and anxious questions as every fresh 
movement was visible. 



326 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" What's she doing, eh ? " he asked. " Did 
that stop her ? Is she coaling up, or does she 
signal ? Lord, if I had the oil I'd sweep the sea 
from New York to Queenstown. What is it, 
boy ? why don't you answer me ? " 

(: You don't give me time ; but I can see now. 
She's coaling up, and there are men forward work- 
ing with oars." 

" Do you say that ? " he said, pushing me 
away from the glass. '' Do you say that she's 
coaling ? By thunder, you're right ! We'll have 
her oil yet ; and then let them as come after 
me look to themselves ! " 

As he said the last word he stepped from 
the conning-tower on to the bridge, and I followed 
him. 

There, at the distance of a third of a mile 
away on the starboard bow, was the crippled 
cruiser, helpless by her look ; and our light fell 
full upon her, showing men in great activity 
upon her decks, and others running forward as 
though there were danger also in the fo'castle. 
The night around us was very dark, and the 
huge, heaving swell shone black as pitch in 
mountains and cavities below the gallery. We 
two were alone there upon the ocean, finishing 
that terrible duel if, indeed, the end had not 
come, as I thought from the silence of the other. 

" Skipper, are you going aboard her now ? " 
asked the man " Roaring John," who came to 



THE IRON PIRATE. 327 

us on the bridge. " She's done by her looks, 
and you'll get no oil if ye delay. Karl there, 
he ain't as comfortable as if he were in his 
bed." 

The little German was very far from it. He 
was almost desperate when minute by minute 
his stock of oil grew less ; and he ran from one 
to the other, as though we had grease in our 
pockets, and could give it to him. 

Black took due notice, but did not lose his 
calm. His cigar was now glowing red, and he 
took it often from his mouth, looking at the 
lighted end of it as a man does who is thinking 
quickly. 

u You're quite sure she's done, John ? " he 
asked, turning to the big man. 

" She's done, I guess, or why don't she spit ? 
If she's got another kick in her, send me to 
the devil ! " 

The words had scarce left his lips when the 
cruiser's aft guns thundered out almost together, 
and one shell passed through the very centre 
of our group. It cut the man John in half 
as he might have been cut by a sword, and his 
blood and flesh splashed us, while the other 
half of him stood up like a bust upon the deck, 
and during one horrible moment his arms moved 
wildly, and there was a horrid quivering of the 
muscles of his face. The second shot struck the 
roof of the turret obliquely, and glanced from it 



328 THE IRON PIRATE. 

into the sea. The destruction seemed to move 
Black no more than a rain shower. He simply 
cried : " All hands to cover ; I'm going to give 
'em a taste of the machine-guns;" and we re- 
entered the conning-tower. Then, as we began 
to move again, I swept the horizon with our 
light ; but this time, far away over the black 
waste of water, the signal was answered. 

" Number two ! " said Black quite calmly, 
when I told him, " and this time a battle-ship. 
Well, boy, if we don't take that oil yonder in 
ten minutes you may say your prayers." 



CHAPTER XXV. 

THE DUMB MAN SPEAKS. 

HE put up the helm as he spoke, and brought 
our head round so that we were in a position to 
have rammed the cruiser had we chosen. This 
was not Black's object. He desired first to cripple 
her completely, then to finish her with the Maxim 
guns. 

" Now, let's see what tnat Scotsman's worth," 
he cried, as he laid down his cigar, and spoke 
through one of the tubes. Almost with his words 
the tower shook with the thunder, the twenty- 
nine ton gun in the fore turret belched forth 
flame, and the hissing shell struck the steamer 
over her very magazine. We waited for a re- 
sponse, but none came. She had received the 
shot, as it proved, right on her great gun ; and 
the weapon lay shivered and useless, cast quite 
free from its carriage, while dead men were 
around it in heaps. 

" Dick's earned his dinner, 1 ' said Black, taking 
up his cigar again, as he rang twice, and the 
men rushed to the small guns, and prepared to 
get them into action. " We'll give 'em a little 



330 THE IRON PIRATE. 

hail this time, for they haven't the cover we 
have. If we don't get aboard before the other 
comes up, they get the trick." 

The nameless ship bounded forward into the 
night as he spoke, and, soon coming up with 
the helm a-starboard, she was not fifty yards 
away from her long opponent when the deadly 
steel storm began its havoc. For our part, the 
men had cover of a sort in the fore-top, and 
there were steel screens round the deck-guns ; 
but when the cruiser replied with her own small 
arms many fell ; and groans, and shrieks, and 
curses rose, and were audible even to us in the 
tower. Never have I known anything akin to 
that terrible episode when bullets rang upon our 
decks in hundreds, and' the dead and the living 
in the other ship lay huddled together, in a 
seething, struggling, moaning mass. For she 
had little cover, being a cruiser, and we had 
opened fire upon her before such of her men as 
could be spared had got below. 

" Let 'em digest that ! " cried Black, as he 
watched the havoc, and puffed away with serene 
calmness amidst the stress of it all ; " let 'em 
swallow lead, the vultures. I'd sink 'em with 
one shot if it wasn't for their oil ; but they 
ain't alone ! " 

It was true. I, who had not ceased to watch 
that distant light which marked another war- 
ship on the horizon, knew that a second light 



THE IRON PIRATE. 331 

had shone out as a star away over the sea ; and 
now, when I looked again at his words, I saw 
a third light, but I had no courage to tell him 
of it. Indeed, we were being surrounded, and 
the danger was the greater for every minute of 
delay. The cruiser, although she suffered so 
grievously from the storm of lead which we 
rained upon her, had not hurled down her flag, 
and still replied to our fire, but more feebly. 
And the search-lights of the distant ships were 
clearer to my view every moment, so that I 
watched them alone at the last ; and Black saw 
them, and took a sight from the glass. Then for 
the first time his cigar fell from his lips, and he 
muttered an exclamation which might have been 
one of fear. 

" Boy," he said, " you should have told me 
of this. I see three lights, and that means a 
fleet of the devils to come. Well, I'll risk it, 
as I've risked it before. If I can stop "em now 
with a shot, the game's ours ; if she sinks, they 
trump us." 

He gave a long order in careful words down 
through the tube to the turret ; and, coming up 
to position, we fired at the cruiser for the last 
time, hitting her low down in the very centre 
of her engine-room. A great volume of steam 
gushed up from her deck, with clouds of smoke 
and fire ; and as all shooting from her small 
arms ceased, we went out to the gallery, and 



332 THE IRON PIRATE. 

the boats were cast free. A minute after, the 
ensign of the other was lowered, and we had 
beaten her. 

" You, ' Four-Eyes,' take the launch, and get 
her oil," Black sang out at the sight ; " you'll 
have five hands, that's all you want. Go sharp, 
if you'd save your skins ! " 

I stood on the gallery, and watched the passage 
of the small boat, which was at the side of the 
maimed cruiser almost in a moment. There was 
no longer any resistance to our men, for the hands 
of the other ship had too much work of their 
own to do. I saw some running quickly to the 
aft boats, while some were bearing wounded 
from below, and others stood beneath the bridge 
taking orders from a very young officer, who had 
no colleagues in the work. Not that there was 
any confusion, only that awful crying of strong 
men in their agony, of the dying who feel 
death's hand upon them, of the wounded who had 
pain which was hardly to be endured. For a 
long time it seemed as though no one heard 
the hail of " Four-Eyes " to be taken aboard ; 
and when at last we watched him get on 
deck, he met with no resistance, but did as he 
would. Under the spreading rays of our great 
arc you could follow the whole scene as though 
by day the hurrying crowd of seamen, the work 
at the boat, the fear and terror of it all. And 
you could see at the last a sight which to 



THE IRON PIRATE. 333 

Black had more import than anything else in 
that picture of distress and desolation. 

The great ship began to heel right over. 
Her stern came high out of the water, so that 
her screws were visible. She dipped her focYle 
clean under the breaking sea ; and so she rode 
during some terrible minutes. Her own men 
now cast off their boats anyhow, leaving the 
wounded, who cursed, or implored, or prayed, or 
shrieked ; but " Four-Eyes " did not come, and 
Black raved, looking away where the search- 
lights of the other ships now showed their rapid 
approach. To this extraordinary man it was 
the great cast of life. If the cruiser went down 
and his men got no oil, we should infallibly 
be taken by the warships then coming upon 
us ; and I wonder not that in that moment he 
lost something of his old calm, pacing the bridge 
with nervous steps, and alternately cursing or im- 
ploring the men who could not hear. 

" Why don't they come ? " he asked desper- 
ately. " The lazy, loitering snails ! What are 
they doing there ? Do you see her heeling ? 
She can't weather that list another five minutes. 
Dick ! for God's sake signal to them the creep- 
ing vermin ! Ahoy, there ! Do you hear me ? 
You aboard, are you looking to live to-morrow, 
or will you lay a hundred fathoms under look, 
boys ! Do you see them lights ? They're war- 
ships, three of 'em ! We've got to show 'em 



334 THE IRON PIRATE. 

our heels, and we can't we've no oil, not a 
gallon ! And they're taking their ease like fine 
gentlemen aboard there the guzzling swine 
but I'll stir 'em ! You Dick, fire a shot at 
'em ! " 

Dick had just answered him, saying, " Ay, 
Captain, I'll gie him a wee bit o' iron in his 
gizzard," when his further words were broken 
on his lips, for our hands appeared at the ladder 
of the doomed steamer, and they tumbled into 
the launch anyhow, flying madly from her side 
as she plunged to a huge sea, and with one 
mighty roll went headlong under the surface 
of the Atlantic. At that moment day broke, 
and, as the silver light of the dawn spread 
over the dark of the < sea, we saw three iron- 
clads approaching us at all their speed, and then 
not three miles distant from us. But the launch 
was at our side, and as Black leant over, and 
the new light lit up his bloodshot eyes and 
haggard face, he asked, with hoarseness in his 
voice 

" Have ye got the oil ? " 

" Not a drop ! " replied the cox. 

The strong man reared himself straight up, 
and he turned to Karl, at his side. In that 
moment he was really great, and I shall never 
forget the nonchalance with which he drew 
another cigar from his case and lighted it. The 
two men, who had found their calm as the 



THE IRON PIRATE. 335 

danger thickened, were in perfect accord ; and, 
as one descended the ladder to the engine-room 
with slow steps, the other went again to the 
tower, where I followed him. 

"Boy," he said, "I've often wondered how 
this old ship would break up ; now we'll see, 
but she's going to bite some of 'em yet, if she 
can't last." 

a Are you going to run for it ? " 1 asked. 

" Run for it, with two engines, yes ; but it's 
a poor business. And we'll have to fight ! 
Well, who knows ? There's luck at sea as well 
as on shore. If I run, they'll catch me in ten 
miles ; but we'll all do what we can. Now 
smoke and have a brandy-and-soda. You may 
not get another." 

The drink I took, but his calm I could not 
share. If the nameless ship were trapped at last 
I had freedom ; but of what sort ? The freedom 
of a bloody fight, the lottery of life, the remote 
possibility that, the ship being taken, I should get 
to the shelter of the war-vessels. The man soon 
undeceived me on both points. 

u If we're out-manoeuvred and crippled in what's 
coming," said he, " I have given Karl my orders. 
This ship I've built and loved like a child isn't 
going to knuckle under to any man living. She's 
going to sink, lad, and we're all going to blazes 
with her ! What's the odds ? A man must die ! 
Let him die on his own dunghill, say I, and a fig 



336 THE IRON PIRATE. 

for the reckoning ! We shall last out as long as 
we can, and then we'll let the cylinders fill with 
hydrogen, and blow her up. But you're not 
smoking." 

The threat, so jaunty yet so terrible, was almost 
like a sentence of death to me. I looked from the 
glass of the tower, and saw the foremost ironclad 
but two miles away from us, and the others were 
sweeping round to cut us off if we attempted flight. 
In the old days, with the nameless ship at the zenith 
of her power, we should have laughed at their best 
efforts have flown from them as a bird from a trap. 
But we lay with but two engines working, and a 
speed of sixteen knots at the best. Nor did we 
know from minute to minute when another engine 
would break down. 

At the beginning of this flight we almost held 
our own, shaping a curious course, which, if pursued, 
would have brought us ultimately to the Irish coast 
again. For some hours during the morning I 
thought that we gained slightly, and those follow- 
ing evidently felt that it would be a waste of shell 
to fire at us, for they were silent : only great 
volumes of smoke came from the funnels of the 
battleships, and we knew that their efforts to get 
greater speed were prodigious. 

We ran in this state all the morning, our men 
silent and brooding ; Black smoked cigar after cigar 
with a dogged assumption of indifference ; the 
German came to us often with his desperate 



THE IRON PIRATE. 337 

gestures and his woe-begone face. It was well 
on in the afternoon before the position changed 
in any way, and I had gone down with the Captain 
to the lower saloon to make the pretence of lunch- 
ing. There we sat " Four-Eyes " with us a 
miserable trio, cracking jokes, and expressing 
desperate hopes ; sending up the nigger every 
other moment to learn how the ironclad lay, and 
much comforted when at the fifth coming he 
said 

" You gain, sar, plenty sar ; you run right away, 
sar." 

" We do ? " cried Black, who jumped from his 
seat and ran up the companion-way to confirm the 
tale, and he shouted down to us, " Crack another 
bottle, if it's the last, and give it to the nigger ; 
we're leaving them ! " 

His elation was contagious. '' Four-Eyes " 
awoke from his lethargy, and drank a pint of the 
wine at a draught. The nigger put out a glass 
with a satisfied leer. The Captain took a bottle 
arid laid his hand on the cork. But there it 
stayed, for at that moment there came a horrible 
sound of grating and tearing from the engine-room, 
and it was succeeded by a moment of dead and 
chilling silence. 

" The second engine's gone," said a man above, 
quite calmly, and we knew the worst, and went on 
deck again. 

We found the crew sullen and muttering, but 



338 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Friedrich, the engineer's eldest son, sat at the top 
of the engine-room ladder, and tears rolled down 
his face. The great ship still trembled under the 
shock of the breakdown and was not showing ten 
knots. The foremost ironclad crept up minute by 
minute ; and before we had realised the whole 
extent of the mishap, she was within gunshot of 
us ; but her colleagues were some miles away, she 
outpacing them all through it. 

" Bedad, she signals to us to let her come 
aboard," said " Four-Eyes," who watched her 
intently. 

" Answer that we'll see her in chips first," said 
Black, and he called for Karl and made signs to 
him. 

"If so be as ye don't come to, he'll be about to 
fire upon ye," cried " Four-Eyes," again, who stood 
at the flag-line, and this time Black thought before 
he answered 

" Then parley with 'em ; we'll come alongside 
and hear their jaw." 

There was a leer of positive devilry on his face 
as he said this, and he beckoned me into the 
conning-tower, when he closed the tower and bade 
me watch. Those on the battle-ship made quite 
sure of us now, for they steamed on and came 
within three hundred yards of us. Black watched 
them as a beast watches the unsuspecting prey. 
He stood, his face knit in savage lines, his hand 
upon the bell. I looked from the glass, and saw 



THE IRON PIRATE. 339 

that no man was visible upon our decks, that our 
engines had ceased to move. We were motionless. 
Then in a second the bells rang out. There was 
again that frightful grating and tearing in the 
engine-room. The nameless ship came round to 
her helm with a mighty sweep : she foamed and 
plunged in the seas ; she turned her ram straight 
at the other ; and, groaning as a great stricken 
wounded beast, she roared onward to the voyage 
of death. I knew then the fearful truth : Black 
meant to sink the cruiser with his ram. I shall 
never forget that moment of terror, that grinding 
of heated steel, that plunge into the seas. Holding 
with all my strength to the seat of the tower, I 
waited for the crash, and in the suspense hours 
seemed to pass. At last, there was under the sea 
a mighty clap as of submarine thunder. Dashed 
headlong from my post, I lay bruised and wounded 
upon the floor of steel. The roof above me rocked ; 
the walls shook and were bent ; my ears rang with 
the deafening roar in them ; seas of foam mounted 
before the glass ; shrieks and the sound of awful 
rending and tearing drowned other shouts of men 
going to their death. And through all was the 
hysterical yelling of Black, his cursing, his defiance, 
his elatjon. 

" Come and see," he roared, dragging me by 
the collar to the gallery ; u come and see. They 
sink, the lubbers ! They go to blazes every one 
of them. Look at their faces, the crawling scum. 



340 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Ha ! ha ! Die, you vermin ! as you meant me to 
die ; fill your skins with water, you sharks ! I spit 
on you ! Boys, do you hear them crying to you ? 
Music, fine music ! Who'll dance when the devil 
plays ? Dance, you lazy blacklegs ; dance on 
nothing ! Ha, ha ! " 

No man has ever looked on a more awful sight. 
We had struck the battleship low amidships we 
had crashed through the thinnest coat of her steel. 
She had heeled right over from the shock, so that 
the guns had cast free from the carriages, and the 
sea had filled her. Thus for one terrible minute 
she lay, her men crowding upon her starboard 
side, or jumping into the sea, or making desperate 
attempts to get her boats free ; and then, with a 
heavy lurch, she rolled beneath the waves ; and 
there were left but thirty or forty struggling souls, 
who battled for their lives with the great rollers 
of the Atlantic. Of these a few reached the side 
of our ship and were shot there as they clung to 
the ladder ; a few swam strongly in the desperate 
hope that the brutes about me would relent, and 
sank at last with piercing and piteous cries upon 
their lips ; others died quickly, calling upon God 
as they went to their rest. 

For ourselves we lay, our bows split w.ith the 
shock, our engine-room in fearful disorder, our 
men drunk with ferocity and with despair. The 
other warships were yet some distance away ; but 
they opened fire upon us at hazard, and, of the 



THE IRON PIRATE. 341 

first three shells which fell, two cut our decks ; 
and sent clouds of splinters, of wood, and of human 
flesh flying in the smoke-laden air. At the fifth 
shot, a gigantic crash resounded from below, and 
the stokers rushed above with the news that the 
fore stoke-hold had three feet of water in it. The 
hands received the news with a deep groan ; then 
with curses and recriminations. They bellowed 
like bulls at Black ; they refused all orders. He 
shot down man after man, while I crouched for 
safety in the tower ; and they became but fiercer. 
Our end was evidently near ; and, knowing this, 
they fell upon the liquor, and were worse than 
fiends. Anon they turned upon the captain and 
myself, and fired volleys upon the conning-tower ; 
or, in their terrible frenzy, they pitched themselves 
into the sea, or raved with drunken songs, and 
vented their vengeance upon the Irishman, " Four- 
Eyes," chasing him wildly, and stabbing him 
with many cuts, so that he dropped dying at 
our door, with no more reproach than the simple 
words 

" God help me ! but had I died in me own 
counthry I would have known more pace." 

Through all this our one engine worked ; 
and so slowly did the great ironclad draw upon 
us that the end of it all came before they could 
reach us. Suddenly the men rushed to the boats 
and cast them loose. Fighting with the dash of 
madmen, they crowded the launch, they swarmed 



342 THE IRON PIRATE. 

the jolly-boat and the life-boat. Even the en- 
gineer's son felt the touch of contagion, and 
joined the m?lee. We watched their insane efforts 
as boat after boat put away and was swamped, 
leaving the devilish men to drown as the worthier 
fellows had drowned before them ; and amongst 
the last to die was " Dick the Ranter," who 
went down with blasphemies gurgling upon his 
lips. When six o'clock came, Black and Karl 
and myself were alone upon the great ship ; and 
in the stillness which followed there came another 
weird and wild and soul-stirring shriek the cry 
of the dumb engineer, who found speech in the 
great catastrophe. Then Black pulled me by the 
arm and said 

" Boy, they've left ' nothing but the dinghy. 
The old ship's done ; and it's time you left 
her." 

" And you ? " I asked. 

He looked at me and at Karl. He had meant 
to die with the ship, I knew ; but the old mag- 
netism of my presence held him again in that 
hour. He followed me slowly, as one in a dream, 
to the davits aft, and freed the last of the boats, 
overlooked by the hands in their frenzy and 
their panic. Then he went to his cabin, and to 
the rooms below; and I helped him to put a 
couple of kegs of water in the frail craft, with 
some biscuit, which we lashed, and a case of wine 
which he insisted on. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 343 

The preparation cost us half-an-hour of time, 
and when all was ready, the captain went to the 
engine-room and brought Karl to the top of the 
ladder ; but there the German stayed, nor did 
threats or entreaties move him. 

" He'll die with the ship,'' said Black, " and 
I don't know that he isn't wise ; " but he held 
out his hand to the genius of his crime, and 
after a great grip the two men parted. 

For ourselves, we stepped on the frailest 
craft with which men ever faced the Atlantic, 
and at that moment the first of the ironclads 
fired another shell at the nameless ship. It was 
a crashing shot, but it had come too late to 
serve justice, or to wreck the ship of mystery ; 
for Karl had let the hydrogen into the cylinders 
unchecked, and with a mighty rush of flame, and 
a terrific explosion, the craft of gold gave her 
" Vale ! " And in a cascade of fire, lighting the 
sea for many miles, and making as day the 
newly-fallen night, the golden citadel hissed over 
the water for one moment, then plunged head- 
long, and was no more. 

A fierce fire it was, lighting sea and sky a 
mighty holocaust ; the roar of a great confla- 
gration ; the end. of a monstrous dream. And 
I thought of another fire and another face the 
face of Martin Hall, who had seen the finger 
of Almighty God in his mission ; and I said, 
" His work is done ! " 



344 THE IRON PIRATE. 

But Black, clinging to the dinghy, wept as 
a man stricken with a great grief, and he cried 
so that the coldest heart might have been 
moved 

" My ship, my ship ! Oh God, my ship ! " 



CHAPTER XXVI. 
A PAGE IN BLACK'S LIFE. 

I KNOW not whether it was the amazing spectacle 
of the nameless ship's end, or the sudden coming 
down of night, that kept attention from our boat 
when the great vessel had sunk ; but those on 
the ironclads, which were at least two miles from 
us when we put off, seemed to be unaware that 
any boat from the ship lived ; and, although 
they steamed for some hours in our vicinity, 
they saw nothing of us as we lay in the plunging 
dinghy. When night fell, and with it what 
breeze that had been blowing, we lost sight of 
them altogether, and knew for the first time the 
whole terror of the situation. Black had indeed 
recovered much of his old calm, and drank long 
draughts of champagne ; but he sat silent, and 
uttered no word for many hours after the end 
of that citadel which had given him such great 
power. As for the little boat, it was a puny 
protection against the sweeping rollers of the 
Atlantic, and I doubt not that we had been 
drowned that very night if a storm of any 
moment had broken upon us. 

About midnight a thunderstorm got up from 

L 



346 THE IRON PIRATE. 

the south, and the sea, rising somewhat with 
it, \vetted us to the skin. The lightning, terribly 
vivid and incessant, lighted up the whole sea 
again and again, showing each the other's face, 
the face of a worn and fatigue-stricken man. 
And the rain and the sea beat on us until we 
shivered, cowering, and were numbed ; our hands 
stiffened with the salt upon them, so that we 
could scarce get the warming liquor to our lips. 
Yet Black held to his silence, moaning at rare 
intervals as he had moaned when the great ship 
sank. It was not until the sun rose over the 
long swell that we slept for an hour or more ; 
and after sleep we were both calmer, looking for 
ships with much expectation, and that longing 
which the derelict only may know. The Captain 
was then very quiet, and he gazed often at me 
with the expression I had seen on his face when 
he saved me from his men. 

" Boy," he said, " look well at the sun, lest 
you never look at it again." 

" I am looking," I replied ; u it is life to me." 

"If," he continued, very thoughtful, "you, 
who have years with you, should live when I 
go under, you'll take this belt I'm wearing off 
me ; it'll help you ashore. If it happen that I 
live with you, it'll help both of us." 

''We're in the track of steamers," said I; 
" there's no reason to look at it that way yet. 
Please God, we'll be seen." 



THE IRON PIRATE. 347 

" That's your way, and the right one," he 
answered ; " but I'm not a man like that, and 
my heart's gone with my ship : we shall never 
see her like again." 

" You built her ? " I said questioningly. 

" Yes," he responded. " I built her when I put 
my hand against the world, and, if it happened to 
me to go through it again, I'd do the same." 

" What did you go through ? " I asked, as he 
passed me the biscuits and the cup with liquor 
in it, and as he sat up in the raft I saw that 
the man had death written on his face. 

But at that time he told me nothing in 
answer to my question ; and sat for many hours 
motionless, his glassy eyes fixed upon the bottom 
of the boat. In the afternoon, however, he 
suddenly sat up, and took up his thread as if 
he had broken it but a minute before. 

" I went through much,'' said he, gazing over 
the mirror-like surface of the trackless water- 
desert, " as boy and man. I lived a life which 
was hell ; God knows it." 

I did not press him to tell me more, for in 
truth I shivered so and was so numbed that 
even my curiosity to know of this life of crime 
and of mystery was not so paramount as to 
banish that other thought : Shall we live when 
the sun sinks this night ? But he found relief 
in his talk, and, as the liquor warmed him, he 
continued faster than before 



348 THE IRON PIRATE. 

" I was a stepson, boy ; bound to a brute 
with not as much conscience as a big dog, and 
no more human nature in him than a wild bull. 
My mother died three months after he took her, 
and I'm not going to speak about her, God help 
me ; but if I had the man under my hands that 
treated her so, I'd crush his skull like I crush 
this biscuit. Well, that ain't my tale ; you ask 
me what I went through, and I'm trying to tell 
you. Have you ever wanted a meal ? No, I 
reckon not ; and you can't get it in your mind 
to know what living on bones and bits for more 
than a couple of years means, can you, as I lived 
down in my home at Glasgow, and often since 
out West and at Colorado ? I'd come out from 
Scotland as a bit of a lad not turned thirteen, 
and I sailed aboard the Savannah City to 
Montreal, and then to Rio, and in Japan waters ; 
and for three years, until I deserted at 'Frisco, 
no devilry that human fiends could think of was 
unknown to me. But they made a sailor of me; 
and full-rigged ship or steamer I'd navigate with 
the best of 'em. After that, I went aboard a 
brig plying between 'Frisco and Yokohama, and 
there I picked up much, leaving her after two 
years to get across to Europe, and do the ocean 
trade with the Jackson line between Southamp- 
ton and Buenos Ayres. It was in that city I 
met my wife. I married her in Mendoza ; for 
she came of rich folk, who spat on me, and was 



THE IRON PIRATE. 349 

only a bit of a girl who'd never wanted a 
comfort on this earth until that time, and who 
starved with me then and for years. My God ! 
my whole body burns when I think of it that 
bit of a creature who'd never known the lack of 
a gratification and who was dragged down to 
every degradation by my curse." 

I looked at him in surprise, and he answered 
me instinctively. 

" Yes, by my curse. Maybe you don't know 
what it was, for I've held it under a bit since 
she died, but I was a drunkard then a maniac 
when I had the liquor on me, a devil from whom 
all men fled. Not that there isn't work for any 
man in that country work, and well paid but 
I had the fever on me, and well, we sank very 
low. How I lived I can't tell you ; but after a 
couple of years of it I worked a passage to New 
York, and there my son was born. When he 
grew up he was the very image of you. That's 
why I gave you your life when you came on my 
ship." 

The words were spoken in that gentle voice 
he could command sometimes, and, as he uttered 
them, he took my hand and gave it a great 
grip. I understood then that curious look he 
had given me at our first meeting ; his par- 
tisanship for me against the inert ; and that last 
great risk which had brought the end of it all, 
If it had not brought death to both of us. 



350 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Somewhere down in that human well of crime 
and ferocity there was a spring of purer water. I 
had set it free when I brought old memories to 
him, and I owed it to him that amazing chance 
that I lived through the frenzies of Ice-haven. 

" Yes," said Black, observing my surprise, and 
passing me the liquor which he compelled me to 
drink ; " my boy was your height, and your 
build, and he had your eyes. What's more, he 
had your grit, and there was no cooler hand 
living. Not that he owed much to me, for I 
was mad drunk half his life ; and, when sober, I 
lived as often as not in prison for what I had 
done in liquor. It was when he was nearly 
twenty that the change came ; for he began to 
bring home money, do 'you see ? and what with 
his work and the way he talked to me, I set 
myself to get the craving under ; and I was a 
new man in one year, and in two my brain 
came back to me, and I made the discovery that 
I was not born a fool. You may reckon I wor- 
shipped the lad! God knows, he and his mother 
did for me more than man or woman ever did 
for a breathing body. And when my wits came 
back to me, and I thought what 1 might have 
done, and what I had done, and that my boy 
had borne it all only to drag me to my reason 
at hist, 1 could" have ended it there and then. 
Maybe 1 should have done it if a new turn 
hadn't come in my life's road. It was when I 



THE IRON PIRATE. 351 

was at my lowest, and we were sore put to it 
to get food in New York, that I was taken up 
by a man who was going to Michigan seeking 
copper. My lad was then working with a Mike 
Leveston in the city a land-agent for the up- 
country work, and the owner of a line of small 
brigs running between Boston and the Bahamas; 
but times had gone bad with him, and the boy, 
who had been getting good money, found him- 
self with no more than enough to keep him, let 
alone his mother. Well, I thought the thing 
out, and, as my partner had some capital and 
agreed to let me have ten dollars a week any 
way, I made an agreement with Leveston that 
he should allow the wife and the boy enough to 
live on for six months, and I set out for the 
State where the copper find was beginning to 
attract notice, and in a year I was a made man. 
We found the ore as thick as clay, and, under 
the excitement of it, I kept my head, and the 
drink craze never touched me. When the 
money came in, I made Leveston my New York 
agent, and sent him enough to set up the 
woman who'd stood by me all through in more 
luxury than she'd known since she married me. 
For awhile her letters told me of her new life, 
and I kept them under my shirt as I would 
have kept leaves of gold. In the spring, I sent 
the agent twenty thousand dollars for her; and I 
got his acknowledgment, saying she'd gone 



352 THE IRON PIRATE. 

down to Charleston to see about the boy's work 
there, and I should hear from her on her 
return. 

" I think this was about eighteen months 
after I left New York, and from that time my 
wife ceased to write to me, and I heard nothing 
more from the lad. We'd been doing such work 
in the mine that we had enough money to pay 
our way for life, and we hoped to make an 
almighty pile before many years had gone ; but 
I couldn't bear not hearing from them as I 
worked for, and in the fall of the year I went 
back to New York under protest from my 
partner, who could do nothing without me and 
I never rested until I reached my house in Fifty- 
Fourth Street. I found it shut up, the furniture 
gone, not a sign of living being in it ; and when 
I went to make inquiries amongst my neigh- 
bours, they told me what came to this. My wife 
had died of starvation nothing less, boy, for the 
devil I'd sent the money to had doled out to her 
and the lad a few dollars for the first year, but 
had cut and run when the big sums reached 
him ; and he took the boy with him on the 
pretence of a job in the Southern city. My son, 
you see, had turned naturally to architect's work, 
and was induced by this long-toothed vulture to 
quit New York, because they heard from the 
mine that I was dead that 1 died, as Leveston 
had told them, of small-pox and left not a 



THE IRON PIRATE. 353 

shilling for them. God ! if on]y I could bring 
him to life to clutch his cursed throat again ! " 

" But what became of your son ? " I asked, as 
he ceased speaking, and we lay riding gently 
over the long rollers, with a great flood of sun- 
light making the sea as a sheet of beaten gold, 
touched with diamond points where the spray 
broke. Then he went on with it ; but you could 
see some awful emotion moving him, and he 
kept plying himself with drink, \vhich made his 
words the fiercer. 

" What became of the boy ? " he repeated 
after me. " Why, he went south in the hope of 
sending money to his mother ; and directly he 
reached Charleston, Leveston shipped him on a 
brig, knowing that I must hear of his doings in 
a month or more. He sent the lad to Panama, 
and there he died, one of the first to be stricken 
in the fever land. They buried him in the 
country, as the Lord is my witness. Then I 
came home rich, my trunks stuffed with notes, 
able, if I cared, to buy up half the land-agents 
in New York City ; and the money I'd got 
seemed to turn black in my hands when I found 
that those it was made for needed it no more. 
Not as I knew then of the lad's death that I 
was to hear of later ; but, free from the drink, I 
had loved the woman who was gone ; and I was 
a madman for days and weeks. When I got my 
head again I changed as I don't believe any man 
i* 



354 THE IRON PIRATE. 

ever changed before ; there was something in my 
mind which I could not cope with. I can't lay 
it down any clearer than this : it was a hatred 
of all men that took possession of me a fierce 
desire to make mankind pay for the wrongs I 
had suffered. I gave myself up to the drink 
again, but not as I did when they named me a 
drunkard. This time I was the master of it ; I 
used it for my purpose ; I fed my thoughts of 
vengeance on it ; and, while my partner was 
sending me more than a thousand pounds a week 
from Michigan, I remained in New York with the 
double purpose in my head to get my boy back 
to me, and to crush the life out of the man who 
had left my wife to die. 

" All the news I c6uld get at that time was 
this : the boy had left Charleston, ostensibly for 
the Bahamas, three months before I reached 
New York City ; but nothing more had been 
heard of him or the ship. I put the best 
detectives in the city on Leveston's trail, rain- 
ing the money into their pockets to keep them 
to the work ; and they got it out of some of 
Leveston's seamen in Savannah that he had gone 
a long cruise in one of his barques to Rio, and 
even farther south. This news was like red-hot 
iron to my head. I knew that I couldn't touch 
the man by law, except for the robbery of the 
bit of money, and that I didn't care a brass 
button about. What I meant to have was his 



THE IRON PIRATE. 355 

life, and I swore that no man should take it but 
me. Then I went into every low haunt in New 
York. I searched the drinking dens of the 
Bowery ; I made friends with all the thieves, 
picked up the loafers, and the starving. The 
parson who's gone I found running a gambling 
hell in New Jersey; the man 'Four-Eyes' I took 
from a crimp at Boston ; John we got later on 
at Rio, where we bought him from the police. 
I had as fine a crew of scoundrels in a month as 
ever cursed in a fo'castle ; and I shipped them 
all on the screw-steamer, J?ossa, which I bought 
for six thousand pounds from the Rossa Com- 
pany. She was just on six hundred tons, an 
iron boat built for the meat trade ; but we 
knocked her about quick enough, setting three 
machine-guns forard, and fifty Winchester rifles 
among her stores. We put out from Sandy 
Hook, it must be nearly six years ago ; and we 
steamed straight ahead for Rio, where we got 
tidings of Leveston's barque. She had sailed for 
Buenos Ayres, but they looked for her return 
within the month, and we left again next day, 
cruising near shore as far as Desterro, where luck 
was with us. 

" I remember that morning as if it was 
yesterday. We had struck eight-bells, and the 
men were going down to dinner, when the 
mate sighted a ship on the port-bow. We 
put straight out to sea at the hail, and within 



356 THE IRON PIRATE. 

half-an-hour we stood alongside her ; and the 
man who answered my call was Mike Leveston. 
When he saw me hailing him from the poop 
of a steamer, he turned green as the sea about 
him ; and he yelled to me to stand off if I 
didn't want a bullet in me. The sight of him 
maddened me ; I turned the machine-gun on his 
decks, and swept them clear as a grass field, 
but he lay flat on his face by the taffrail, and 
he bellowed for mercy like a woman. And he 
got it. I ran the steamer alongside him, smash- 
ing in his quarter, and when we had gripped, 
I got aboard. Then he grovelled at my feet, and, 
as I held my pistol at his head, he gabbled 
out the news that my son was [dead told me 
that he died at Panama, and he screamed for 
mercy like a hog at the block. But I cut his 
throat from ear to ear with my own knife, and 
I threw his body to the sharks limb by limb as. 
you would throw a dead sheep to the dogs. 
God knows, I was mad then, as I have been 
often since, and am now. My poor son ! " 
u The man told you the truth, then ? " 
"Yes. When I had made chips of his ship 
I went back to Panama, and there got news of 
the boy. They had buried him at Porto Bello, 
and I stopped there long enough to make his 
grave decent, and then returned up the coast 
to New York. Coming back, the vermin with 
me took a fancy on the third day out, when 



THE IRON PIRATE. 357 

three parts of them were drunk, to do with a 
strange brig as they had done with Leveston's. 
They stopped her with the guns, and cleared 
her of ever_y dollar aboard, sending her to the 
bottom out of pure devilry. I didn't stop 'em ; 
for I had the madness of the drink on me again, 
and I led 'em at the work then, and when 
they sent a dozen more coasters after the two 
that had gone on the voyage to Sandy Hook. 
By the time we were in New York again, I had 
got a taste for the new work which nothing 
could cure. It seemed as if I was to revenge 
on mankind the wrong I had suffered from one 
man ; and, more than that, I saw there was 
money in heaps in it. They said at home that 
piracy was played out, but I asked myself, 
' How's that ? Give me a ship big enough,' 
said I, ' and under certain conditions I'll sweep 
the Atlantic.' There was danger in the job, and 
it was big enough to tempt that curious brain of 
mine, which had always dreamed of big jobs 
since I'd been a bit of a boy ; and I was fasci- 
nated with this big idea until I couldn't hold 
myself. That's what led me to keep the crew 
together at New York, and to return to Michigan, 
where I found that the mine was making money 
faster almost than they could bank it, and if I 
was worth a penny, 1 was worth a million ster- 
ling at that very time ; for my partner behaved 
square all through, and paid my share to the 



358 THE IRON PIRATE. 

last penny. I stayed with him about a couple 
of months then, giving my wits to the job, and 
it was there I met Karl, the German engineer, 
who had got it into his head that gas was the 
motor of the near future. He talked of using 
it for the copper work, and then of building gas 
launches for transport ; but he didn't know that 
he'd set me all aglow with another thought, 
which was nothing less than this that I should 
build a steamer driven by gas, and run a game 
of piracy on the Atlantic with her. Do you 
call it lunacy ? Well, other men have made good 
company for such lunatics, the Corsican murderer 
at Moscow among 'em. And what was it to be 
but a fight of one man against the world a fight 
to set your best blood running fast in your veins, 
to brace every nerve in your body ? Boy, I lived 
for a year on that excitement, which was more 
even than the drink to me. I left the mine 
to cruise again in the Rossa with the old hands ; 
but we had added a long ' chaser ' to our list of 
guns, and in the three months out we took 
twenty ships and over two hundred thousand in 
specie. I saw from the beginning of it that the 
one thing we couldn't stand against with a coal 
steamer was the constant putting into port to 
fill her bunkers ; and I knew that if we didn't 
find some haven of refuge out of the common 
run, the day would come when we should swing 
like common cut-throats. I had taken Karl on 



THE IRON PIRATE. 359 

board with me for the trip, and he was the 
man to set both things square. He ran me 
north of Godthaab, in Greenland, and put me 
into the fjord you have known ; and he drew 
the plans of my ship, which I made the Italians 
at Spezia build for me for I had the money, 
and, as for the metal, the phosphor bronze of 
which I built her well, that was Karl's idea, 
too. You may know that phosphor bronze is 
the finest material for ship-building in the world, 
but the majority of 'em can't use it on account 
of the cost of the copper. Well, the copper I 
had, any amount of it ; and I shipped it to Italy, 
and the great vessel which your friend Hall 
thought was all of gold had the look of it, and 
was the finest sight man ever saw when under 
her own colours. 

" Once the ship was built, our game was easy. 
She was armoured heavily amidships ; she had 
two ten-inch guns in her turrets, and machine- 
guns thick all over her ; and she was the 
best-fitted ship in her quarters swimming. It's 
a rum thing, but I always had a bit of a taste 
for nice things fine painting, gold work, and 
stones and my only hobby to speak of has 
been the buying of 'em. This led me to meet 
your friend Hall. Not that I didn't know him 
from the first, for my men saw him in the 
yards at Spezia, and from that day I never left 
him unwatched. I followed him to Paris, to 



300 THE IRON PIRATE. 

Liverpool, to London, when I was ashore ; but I 
never brought my ship within a hundred miles of 
any port : and I used to hire yachts and sink 'em 
in mid-ocean when I wanted to reach her. Your 
friend would be alive now if he hadn't sought 
to find out where I got to when I left port 
in the La France. But I took him aboard to 
end him, and they shot him off the Needles and 
lashed him to the shrouds of the yacht when 
we fired her. He was a brave man, and indirectly 
he brought me to this him and you " 

"And the justice of God," I said, thinking 
hatred towards him again as I remembered Hall's 
death. 

" Perhaps," he answered, (> but you know my 
history ; and what's dorje can't be undone. Yet 
I say again that, if my son was alive, and was 
taken from me as he was taken seven years 
ago in Panama, I'd do what I did, though they 
burnt me alive for it. I've been agen Europe, 
and I've licked 'em, by Heaven ; for what they've 
took is only my ship, and agen that I've a 
million of their money to put. One man with 
his hand agen the world's a fine sight, and what 
I've claimed I've done. Is piracy not worth a 
cent ? Is it played out, do you tell me ? I reckon 
them as says it lies. Give me a ship like mine 
that can show 'em twenty-nine knots ; give me 
the harbour to coal once in six months ; and I'll 
live against the lot of them, fight 'em one by 



THE IRON PIRATE. 361 

one, rule this ocean more sure than any man 
ruled a people. I say I'd do it ; I should have 
said I could have done it, for it's over now, 
and the day's gone. Before another twenty-four 
hours you'll be alone in this dinghy, boy. I've 
death on me, and I wouldn't live without the 
ship ; no, I'll go under as she went under the 
Lord have mercy on me ! " 

The firmness of the captain was near to leav- 
ing him in that moment, but he pulled himself 
together with a great effort, and sat aft, sculling 
with the short oar in a mechanical and alto- 
gether absent way. The long talk with me about 
his past had exhausted him, I thought ; and he 
did not seem disposed to speak again. It was then 
near mid-day, and the sun, being right above 
us, poured down an intolerable heat, so that the 
paint of the dinghy was hot to the hand, and 
we ourselves were consumed with an unquench- 
able thirst. Nor could I restrain myself, but 
drank long draughts from the water-kegs, while 
Black kept to liquor ; and was, I saw with fear, 
rapidly working himself up to a state of intoxi- 
cation. You may ask if the terrors of the 
position came home to us thoroughly in that 
long day when we rode in a bit of a cockle-shell 
on the sweeping rollers of the Atlantic, but I 
answer you, I do not think that they did. The 
fear of such a position is the after-recollection of 
it. We were in a sense numbed to mental 



362 THE IRON PIRATE. 

apprehension by the vigour of the physical 
suffering we endured, by that overwhelming 
thirst, by the devouring heat, by the cutting 
spray which drove upon our faces, by the stiff- 
ening of our clothes when the sun scorched them. 
Seethed in the brine one hour, we were nigh 
burnt up the next ; and yet we knew that water 
would soon fail us that we could not hope for 
life for many days unless we should sight some 
ship, and she in turn should sight us. 

It is, perhaps, only in a small boat that one 
appreciates the magnitude of an Atlantic wave, 
even when the ocean seems comparatively still. 
Sometimes on a steamer's deck, when there is 
heavy wind and the sea is driven before it, you 
may watch a huge roller sweeping the great vessel 
as a pond wave will sweep a match ; but at any 
time from a boat, which is, as it were, right down 
upon the water, you cannot fail to be impressed 
by the onward flow of those mighty translucent 
billows, which rush forward in their course and 
thunder at last upon the granite rocks of the 
western face of Europe. High above you in one 
moment as hills of emerald and silver, you wait 
with nerves all braced up as they come upon you, 
giving promise that you will be engulfed in the 
liquid bosom of the towering mountain ; and you 
breathe again as your boat is taken in their swift 
embrace, and you are borne far above the darker 
ravine of the sea to a pinnacle of spreading foam. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 363 

whence you may look to the distant horizon in 
that search for other ships ; which may be pastime, 
or may be, as in our case, a search on which your 
very life depends. 

How often during that long afternoon, when 
my hair was matted with the salt of the spray, and 
my hands were burnt with a consuming fire, and 
my body was chill or hot with the fever of the long 
exposure, did I, from such a pinnacle, cast my eyes 
around the foam-decked waste, and finding it all 
barren, feel my heart sink as the dinghy swept 
again into the dark-green abyss, and all around 
me were the walls of water ! How many prayers 
did not I send up in the silence of my heart : how 
many thoughts of Roderick and of Mary, how 
many farewells to them ! And when I prayed 
for life, and no answer seemed to come, and I 
remembered the years that might have been before 
me years now to be unknown in the silence of 
the grave I had a great bitterness against all fate 
and all men, and I crouched in the boat with my 
suffering heavy upon me. But Black continued to 
drink, and when the sun fell low in the west, 
and the whole heavens were as mountains and 
peaks of the crimson fire, I knew by his mutter- 
ings that the frenzy of the old madness was upon 
him. 

At one time he called upon his wife, I doubt 
not, and gave mad words of self-reproach and of 
regret. And then he would mutter of his son, as 



364 THE IRON PIRATE. 

though the lad could help him ; and many times 
he cried out : " My God ! the ship's going hands, 
lower boats ! " Or he raved with fierce threats and 
awful cries at the American he had buried, or made 
desperate appeals to some apparition that came to 
him in his dreadful dream. But at the last he 
grew almost incoherent, thinking that I was the 
dead lad ; and he set himself wildly to chafe my 
hand~, and put spirit at my lips. I was then nigh 
dead with want of sleep and fatigue, for I had not 
rested during the fight with the ironclads ; and 
when he covered me with the small tarpaulin, ami 
made a rough pillow in the bow, I went to sleep 
almost at once ; and was as one drunk with the 
torpor of the rest. 

Twice during that ' long night I must have 
roused myself. I recall well a heaven of stars, 
and a moonlit sea glowing with the pale light ; 
while looking down upon me were the eyes of a 
madman, who clutched the sides of the dinghy with 
trembling and claw-like hands, and had a scream 
upon his lips. And again at the second time I 
looked upward to behold a faint break of grey in 
the leaden sky, and to feel warm raindrops beating 
upon me. But I heard no sound, and scarce turn- 
ing in my heaviness, I slept again ; and all through 
my sleep I dreamed that there was the echo of a 
voice, as of the voice of the damned, calling to me 
from the sea, and that, though I would have helped 
the man whose hand was above the waters, I could 



THE IRON PIRATE. 365 

not move, for an iron grip, as the grip of Fate, held 
me to my place. 

When I awoke for the third time, the dinghy 
was held firmly by a boat-hook, and was being 
drawn towards a jolly-boat full of seamen. I rose 
up, rubbing my eyes as a man seeing a vision ; but, 
when the men shouted something to me in German, 
I had another exclamation on my lips ; for I was 
alone in the boat, and Black had left me. 

Then I looked across the sea, and I saw a long 
black steamer lying-to a mile away, and the men 
dragged me into their craft, and shouted hearty 
words of encouragement, and they put liquor to 
my lips, and fell to rowing with great joy. Yet 
I remembered my dream, and it seemed to me 
that the voice I had heard in my sleep was the 
voice of Black, who cried to me as he had cast 
himself to his death in the Atlantic. 
* * * # 

Was the man dead ? Had he really ended that 
most remarkable life of evil enterprise and of crime ; 
or had he by some miracle found safety while I 
slept ? As the Germans rowed me quickly towards 
their steamer, and comforted me as one would 
comfort a child that is found destitute by the way- 
side, I turned this thought over again and again 
in my mind. Had the man gone out of my life 
wrapped in the mystery which had surrounded 
him from the first ? Did he still live to dream 
dreams of vengeance and of robbery ? Or had he 



366 THE IRON PIRATE. 

simply cast himself from the dinghy in a fit of 
insanity, and died the terrible death of the suicide ? 
I could not answer the tremendous question ; had 
no clue to it ; but I had not reached the shelter 
of the steamer which had saved me before I made 
the discovery that the belt of linen which had been 
about Black's waist was now about mine, tied firmly 
with a sailor's knot, and when I put my hand upon 
the linen I found that it was filled with some hard 
and sharp stones, which had all the feel of pebbles. 
Instinctively I knew the truth : that in his last 
hour the master of the nameless ship had retained 
his curious affection for me ; had made over to me 
some of that huge hoard of wealth he must have 
accumulated by his years of pillage ; and I re- 
strained myself with difficulty from casting the 
whole there and then into the waters which had 
witnessed his battles for it. But the belt was firmly 
lashed about me, and we were on the deck of the 
steamer before my benumbed hands could set the 
lashing free. 

It would be idle for me to attempt to describe 
to you all I felt as the captain of the steamship 
Hoffnung greeted me upon his quarterdeck, and 
his men sent up rounds of cheers which echoed 
over the waters. I stood for some minutes forget- 
ful of everything, save that I had been snatched 
from that prison of steel ; brought from the shadow 
of the living death to the hope of seeing friends, 
and country, and home again. Now one man 



THE IRON PIRATE. 367 

wrung my hand, now another brought clothes, now 
another hot food ; but I stood as one stricken 
dumb, holding nervously to the taffrail as though 
none should drag me down again to the horrors 
of the dinghy, or to that terrible loneliness which 
had hung over my life for so many weeks. And 
then there came a great reaction, an overpowering 
weakness, a great sense of thankfulness, and tears 
gushed up in my eyes, and fell upon my numbed 
hands. The good fellows about me, whose German 
was for the most part unintelligible to me, appre- 
ciated well the condition in which I was ; and, with 
many encouraging pats on the back, they forced 
me down their companion way to the skipper's 
cabin, and so to a bunk, where I lay inanimate, 
and deep in sleep for many hours. But I awoke 
as another man, and when I had taken a great bowl 
of soup and some wine, my strength seemed to 
return to me with bounds, and I sat up to find 
they had taken away my clothes, but that the 
belt which Black had bound about me lay at the 
foot of the bunk, and was unopened. 

For some minutes I held this belt in my hand 
with a curious and inexplicable hesitation. It was 
not heavy, being all of linen finely sewed ; but 
when at last I made up my mind to open it, I 
did so with my teeth, tearing the threads at the 
top of it, and so ripping it down. The action 
was followed by a curious result, for as I opened 
the seams there fell upon my bed some twenty 



368 THE IRON PIRATE. 

or thirty diamonds of such size and such lustre 
that they lay sparkling with a thousand lights 
which dazzled the eyes, and made me utter a 
cry at once of surprise and of admiration. White 
stones they were, Brazilian diamonds of the first 
water ; and when I undid the rest of the seam, 
and opened the belt fully, I found at least fifty 
more, with some superb black pearls, a fine em- 
erald, and a little parcel of exquisite rubies. To 
the latter there was attached a paper with the 
words, " My son, for as such I regard you, take 
these ; they are honestly come by. And let me 
write while I can that I have loved you before 
God. Remember this when you forget Captain 
Black." 

That was all ; and I judged that the stones were 
worth five thousand pounds if they were worth a 
penny. I could scarce realise it all as I read the 
note again and again, and handled the sparkling, 
glittering baubles, which made my bunk a cave of 
dazzling light ; or wrapped them once more in 
the linen, using it as a bag, and tying it round 
my neck for safety. It seemed indeed that I had 
come to riches as I had come again to freedom ; 
and in the strange bewilderment of it all, I dressed 
myself in the rough clothes which the skipper 
had sent to me, and bounded on deck to greet 
a glorious day and the fresh awakening breezes 
of the sun-lit Atlantic. It was difficult to believe 
that there was not a reckoning yet to come ; 



THE IRON PIRATE. 369 

that the nameless ship had gone to her doom. 
Had I in reality escaped the terrors of the dinghy ? 
This question I asked myself again and again as 
the soft wind fanned my face ; and I went to 
the bulwarks, looking away where soon we should 
sight the Scillies, while the honest fellows crowded 
round me, and showered every kindness upon me. 
Yet for days and weeks after that, even now 
sometimes when I am amongst my own again, 
I wake in my sleep with troubled cries, and the 
dark gives me back the life which was my long 
night of suffering. 

The Hoffnung was bound for Konigsberg, but 
when the skipper and I had come to understand 
each other by signs and writing, he, with great 
consideration, offered to put into Southampton 
and leave me there. This took a great weight 
from my mind, for I was burning with anxiety 
to hear of my friends again ; and when we en- 
tered the Channel on the third night, I found 
sleep far from my eyes, and paced the deck until 
dawn broke. We dropped anchor off Southamp- 
ton at three in the afternoon, and when I had 
insisted on Captain Wolfram taking one of my 
diamonds as a souvenir for himself, and one to 
sell for the crew, I put off in his long-boat with 
a deep sense of his humanity and kindness, and 
with hearty cheers from his crew. 

I should have gone to the quay at once then, 
but crossing the roads I saw a yacht at anchor, 



370 THE IRON PIRATE. 

and I recognised her as my own yacht Cclsis, 
with Dan pacing her poop. To put to her side 
was the work of a moment, and I do not think 
that I ever gave a heartier hail than that u Ahoy, 
Daniel ! " which then fell from my lips. 

" Ahoy ! " cried Dan in reply, " not as it 
oughtn't to be Daniel, but wkh no disrespect 
to the other gent why, blister my foretop, il 
it ain't the guvnor ! " 

And the old fellow began to shout and to 
wave his arms and to throw ropes about as though 
he were smitten with lunacy. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

I KALI. TO WONDERING. 

I HAD sprung up the ladder, which was always 
at the side of the Cclsis, before Dan had gathered 
his scattered wits to remember that it was there. 
It was worth much to watch that honest fellow 
as he gripped my hand in his two great paws : 
and then let it go to walk away, and survey me 
at a distance ; or drew nearer again, and seemed 
to wish to give me a great hug as a bear hugs 
its cub. But I cut him short with a gesture, 
and asked him if Roderick and Mary were aboard. 

" They're down below, as I'm alive, and the 
hands is ashore, but they'll come aboard for this, 
drunk or sober. Thunder ! if I was ten years 
younger but there, I ain't, and you'll be waking 
'em ; do you see, they're resting after victuals 
down in the saloon. Shall I tell 'em as you've 
called in passing like ? Lord, I can hardly see 
out of my eyes for looking at you, sir." 

Poor old Dan did not quite know what he 
was doing. I left him in the midst of his strange 
talk, and walked softly down the companion way 
to the door of the saloon, and I opened it and 
stood, I doubt not, before them as one come from 



372 THE IRON PIRATE. 

the dead. Mary, whose childish face looked very 
drawn, was seated before a book, open upon the 
table, her head resting upon her hands, and a 
strange expression of melancholy in her great dark 
eyes. But Roderick lay upon a sofa-bunk, and 
was fast asleep, with the novel which he had 
been reading lying crumpled upon the floor. 

I had opened the door so gently that neither 
of them moved as I entered the room. It was 
to me the best moment of my life to be looking 
again upon them, and I waited for one minute 
till Mary raised her head, and our eyes met. 
Then I bent over the cabin table and kissed her, 
and I felt her clinging to me, and though she 
never spoke, her eyes were wet with hot tears ; 
and when she smiled' through them, it was as 
a glimpse of bright sunlight shining through 
a rain-shower. In another moment there was 
nothing but the expression of a great childish 
joy on her face, and the old Mary spoke. 

"Mark, I can't believe it," she said, holding 
me close lest I might go away again, " and I 
always guessed you'd come." 

But Roderick awoke with a yawn, and when 
he saw me he rubbed his eyes, and said as one 
in a dream 

"Oh, is that you?" 

***** 

The tea which Mary made was very fragrant } 
and Roderick's cigars had a fine rich flavour of 



THE IRON PIRATE. 373 

their own, to which we did justice, as we sat 
long that afternoon, and I told of the days in 
Ice-haven. It was a long story, as you know, 
and I could but give them the outline of it, or, 
in turn, hear but a tenth part of their own 
anxieties and ceaseless efforts in my behalf. It 
appeared that when I had failed to return to the 
hotel on that night when I followed Paolo to the 
den in the Bowery, Roderick had gone at once 
to the yacht, and there had learnt from Dan 
of my intention. He did not lose an instant 
in seeking the aid of the police, but I was even 
then astern of the Labrador, and the keen search 
which the New York detectives had made was 
fruitless even in gleaning any tidings of me. 
Paolo was followed night and day for twenty- 
four hours ; but he was shot in a drinking-den 
before the detectives laid hands on him, and only 
lived long enough to send Mary a message, telling 
her that her pretty eyes had saved the Celsis 
from disaster in the Atlantic. On the next day 
both the skipper and Roderick made public all 
they knew of Black and his crew, and a greater 
sensation was never made in any city. The news 
was cabled to Europe over half-a-dozen wires, 
was hurried to the Pacific, to Japanese seas it 
shook the navies of the world with an excitement 
rarely known, and for some weeks it paralysed 
all traffic on the Atlantic. Cruisers of many 
nations were sent in the course of the great 



374 THE IRON PIRATE. 

ocean-going steamers ; arms were carried by 
some of the largest of the passenger ships, and 
the question was asked daily before all other 
questions, " Is the nameless ship taken ? " Yet, 
it was no more than a few weeks' wonder ; for 
we had fled to Ice-haven, and people who heard 
no more of the new piracy asked themselves, 
" Are not these the dreams of dreamers ? " 

Meanwhile Roderick and Mary, who suffered 
all the anguish of suspense, returned to Europe, 
and to London, there to interview the First Lord 
of the Admiralty, and to hear the whole matter 
discussed in Parliament. Several warships and 
cruisers were despatched to the Atlantic, but 
returned to report the ill result of their mission, 
which could have had but this end, since Black 
was then in the shelter of the fjord at Greenland, 
and none thought of seeking him there. Nor 
was my oldest friend content with this national 
action and the subsequent offer of a reward of 
^"50,000 for the capture of the nameless ship 
or of her crew, for he put the best private detec- 
tives in the city at the work, sending two to 
New York, and others to Paris and to Spezia. 
These fathomed something of the earlier mystery 
of Captain Black's life, but the man's after-deeds 
were hidden from them ; and when the weeks 
passed and I did not come, all thought that I had 
died in my self-appointed mission another of his 
manv victims. 



THE IRON PIRATE. 375 

It was but a few days after this sorrowful 
conviction that Black and I went to London, and 
were seen by Inspector King, who had watched 
night and day for the man's coming. The detec- 
tive had immediately telegraphed to the Admiralty, 
and to Roderick, who had reached my hotel to 
find that I had already left. Then he hurried 
back to Southampton, there to hear of the going 
of the warships and to wait with Mary tidings 
of the last great battle, which meant life or death 
to me. 

Long we sat discussing these things, and very 
bright were a pair of dark eyes that listened 
again to Roderick's story, and then to more of 
mine. But Roderick himself had awoke from 
his lethargy, and his enthusiasm broke through 
all his old restraint. 

" To-morrow, why. to-morrow, by George, you'll 
astound London. My dear fellow, we'll go to town 
together to claim the ,50,000 which the Admir- 
alty offered, and the ^"20,000 from the Black 
Anchor Line, to say nothing of American money 
galore. You're made for life, old man ; and we'll 
take the old yacht north to Greenland, and hunt 
up the place and Black's tender, which seems 
to have escaped the ironclads, and it'll be the 
finest trip we ever knew." 

"What does Mary say?" I asked as she still 
held my hand. 

" I don't mean to leave you again,'' she 



376 THE IRON PIRATE. 

answered, and as she spoke there was a great 
sound of cheering above, and a great tramp of feet 
upon the deck ; and as we hurried up, the hands 
I loved to see crowded about me, and their shout- 
ing was carried far over the water, and was 
taken up on other ships, which threw their search- 
lights upon us, so that the night was as a new 
day to me, and the awakening from the weeks 
of dreaming as the coming of spring after winter's 
dark. Yet, as the child-face was all lighted with 
radiant smiles, and honest hands clasped mine, 
and the waters echoed the triumphant greeting, 
I could not but think again of Captain Black, 
or ask myself Is the man really dead, or shall 
we yet hear of him, bringing terror upon the 
sea, and death and suffering ; the master of the 
nations, and the child of a wanton ambition ? 
Or is his grave in the great Atlantic that he 
ruled in the mighty moments of his power ? 
Ah, I wonder. 



TOE END. 



Printed by CASSBLL & COMPANY, LIMITED, La Belle Sauvage, London, K.C. 



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